Asynchrony of Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and toxicity in the U.S. Virgin Islands: implications for monitoring and management of Ciguatera
Liefer, Justin D.
Richlen, Mindy L.
Smith, Tyler B.
DeBose, Jennifer L.
Anderson, Donald M.
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KeywordGambierdiscus; ciguatera poisoning; Dictyota; ciguatoxin; Caribbean; dinoflagellate; benthic algae; algal toxin; harmful algal bloom
Ciguatera poisoning (CP) poses a significant threat to ecosystem services and fishery resources in coastal communities. The CP-causative ciguatoxins (CTXs) are produced by benthic dinoflagellates including Gambierdiscus and Fukuyoa spp., and enter reef food webs via grazing on macroalgal substrates. In this study, we report on a 3-year monthly time series in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands where Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and Caribbean-CTX toxicity in benthic samples were compared to key environmental factors, including temperature, salinity, nutrients, benthic cover, and physical data. We found that peak Gambierdiscus abundance occurred in summer while CTX-specific toxicity peaked in cooler months (February–May) when the mean water temperatures were approximately 26–28 °C. These trends were most evident at deeper offshore sites where macroalgal cover was highest year-round. Other environmental parameters were not correlated with the CTX variability observed over time. The asynchrony between Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and toxicity reflects potential differences in toxin cell quotas among Gambierdiscus species with concomitant variability in their abundances throughout the year. These results have significant implications for monitoring and management of benthic harmful algal blooms and highlights potential seasonal and highly-localized pulses in reef toxin loads that may be transferred to higher trophic levels.
© The Author(s), 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Liefer, J. D., Richlen, M. L., Smith, T. B., DeBose, J. L., Xu, Y., Anderson, D. M., & Robertson, A. Asynchrony of Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and toxicity in the U.S. Virgin Islands: implications for monitoring and management of Ciguatera. Toxins, 13(6), (2021): 413, https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins13060413.
Suggested CitationLiefer, J. D., Richlen, M. L., Smith, T. B., DeBose, J. L., Xu, Y., Anderson, D. M., & Robertson, A. (2021). Asynchrony of Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and toxicity in the U.S. Virgin Islands: implications for monitoring and management of Ciguatera. Toxins, 13(6), 413.
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