A microbe commonly found in the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways emits a poison not just to protect itself but to stun and immobilize the prey it plans to eat, a team of researchers from four universities has discovered. The findings about algae linked to massive fish kills could lead to new ways to slow the growth of these tiny but toxic marine creatures.
The researchers studied the behavior of the algal cell Karlodinium veneficum, known as a dinoflagellate and found in estuaries worldwide. Each year millions of dollars are spent on measures to control dinoflagellates around the globe. This particular species is known to release a substance called karlotoxin, which is extremely damaging to the gills of fish. Karlodinium veneficum has been known to form large algal blooms in the Chesapeake and elsewhere, triggering an immediate harmful impact on aquatic life, including fish kills.
"This new research opens the door to reducing bloom frequency and intensity by reducing the availability of its prey," said Allen Place of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "As we reduce the nutrient load feeding Karlodinium's prey and bring back the bay's most prolific filter feeder, the Eastern oyster, we could essentially limit Karlodinium's ability to bloom."
Place, in whose laboratory karlotoxin was discovered and characterized, was a co-author of the new study, published this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other researchers involved in the study came from the University of Minnesota, The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Hawaii.
"This is a major environmental problem, but we didn't know why these microbes were producing the toxins in the first place," said Joseph Katz, the William F. Ward Sr. Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at John
|Contact: Phil Sneiderman|
Johns Hopkins University