California sea lions have been a repeated subject of investigation for early life toxicity, which has been documented to occur with increasing frequency from late February through mid-May in association with organochlorine (PCB and DDT) poisoning and infectious disease in the 1970's and domoic acid poisoning in the last decade. The mass early life mortality events result from the concentrated breeding grounds and synchronization of reproduction over a 28 day post partum estrus cycle and 11 month in utero
phase. This physiological synchronization is triggered by a decreasing photoperiod of 11.48 h/day that occurs approximately 90 days after conception at the major California breeding grounds. The photoperiod trigger activates implantation of embryos to proceed with development for the next 242 days until birth. Embryonic diapause is a selectable trait thought to optimize timing for food utilization and male migratory patterns; yet from the toxicological perspective presented here also serves to synchronize developmental toxicity of pulsed environmental events such as domoic acid poisoning. Research studies in laboratory animals have defined age-dependent neurotoxic effects during development and windows of susceptibility to domoic acid exposure. This review will evaluate experimental domoic acid neurotoxicity in developing rodents and, aided by comparative allometric projections, will analyze potential prenatal toxicity and exposure susceptibility in the California sea lion. This analysis should provide a useful tool to forecast fetal toxicity and understand the impact of fetal toxicity on adult disease of the California sea lion.