Organisms that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans also impact fisheries

Written by on June 3, 2016 in Marine Life

New research reveals that ingesting toxic microorganisms changes the behavior and reproductive capabilities of copepods.

Alexandrium fundyense. Photo credit: Gary Wikfors, NOAA.

Alexandrium fundyense. Photo credit: Gary Wikfors, NOAA.

Alexandrium fundyense is the toxic dinoflagellate that is responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). It is commonly ingested by copepods (small crustaceans) that are a key food source for many young fish, including many commercially important species. While toxic to humans, previous research has shown that copepods are highly tolerant of the dinoflagellate.

A new study from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, however, found that the A. fundyense actually does have an impact on the copepods. By studying the copepods in controlled settings, researchers found that the ones that feed on the toxic organisms had less energy for things like growth and reproduction. This was true whether they were fed high- or low-doses of the organism.

This research is particularly important now, as climate change is increasing the number of harmful algal blooms, including blooms of A. fundyense. If copepods continue to ingest these toxic organisms and aren’t able to reproduce, it could mean less food for commercially important species.

“Further, high-density harmful algal blooms could, at the population level, affect the number of copepods, thus affecting the food source that sustains important fisheries in the Atlantic,” Petra Lenz, researcher at PBRC and co-author of the study, said in a news release.

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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