Researchers Discover That Many Aquatic Animals Are Suffering from Vitamin Deficiencies

Scientists have discovered that a variety of aquatic animals are slowly dying from vitamin deficiencies, including salmon, eels, and mussels. Thiamine deficiencies can now be linked to population declines for a number of animal species. The exact cause of these deficiencies is unknown but researchers are beginning to piece together the puzzle. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Some animal populations are declining for unknown reasons, including many species of eels, mussels, fish, and birds. Specific species, such as salmon, are beginning to disappear even when there’s no clear cause. Previous studies have pointed to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies as contributing factors in these unusual cases.

A team of researchers from Stockholm University collaborated with scientists throughout the world to design a large-scale experiment on possible thiamine deficiencies in wild animals. Thiamine is a necessary vitamin for maintaining normal cellular processes. The team collected data from 45 research sites and found evidence of thiamine deficiencies in blue mussels, common eiders, Atlantic salmon, sea trout, American eels, and European eels. Based on their data, the research team concluded that these deficiencies were due to food sources and not from illness, parasites, or other problems.

Thiamine deficiencies can cause a number of serious but non-fatal problems in animal species. Slower growth, reproductive issues, poor swimming abilities, and vulnerability to parasitic infections are all possible effects. A deficiency in thiamine also changes blood chemistry in a way that can lead to organ damage and low endurance. Although the researchers now know that nutritional deficiencies are to blame for the decrease of some animal populations, the entire mystery has not been solved. Researchers still aren’t sure what is causing a lack of thiamine in the animals’ food sources.

The team’s findings provide an explanation for some of the mysterious population declines found in aquatic animals. Many animals are suffering from thiamine deficiencies, which cause a number of serious medical problems. Further research is needed to determine exactly why these environments lack such an important vitamin.


Balk et al. Widespread episodic thiamine deficiency in Northern Hemisphere wildlife. Scientific Reports (2016).

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