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NCCOS-Sponsored Study Named One of Nature’s Top 15 Evolutionary Gems

Researchers funded by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have been recognized by the journal Nature for their work on softshell clams (Mya arenaria) from the North Atlantic Coast that show resistance to saxitoxin, a red tide toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans.

This study came in at #14 on the Evolutionary Gems List, which honors the top studies published by Nature in the past decade that illustrate accomplishments in evolutionary thinking. This collaborative project was entitled, “A Molecular Basis for Differential Susceptibility and Accumulation of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Toxins in Commercial Bivalves” and was supported by grants from NCCOS and the National Institutes of Health.

It was carried out by Vera Trainer, NOAA; V. Monica Bricelj, National Research Council in Canada; Laurie Connell, University of Maine; and Keiichi Konoki, Todd Scheuer, and William A. Catterall, University of Washington.

Compared to clams from unaffected areas, resistant clams are repeatedly exposed to saxitoxin, which acts as a selective agent leading to genetic adaptation. Tolerance increases accumulation of toxins in clam tissues and raises the risk of PSP in humans. Knowledge of the influence of HABs on toxin resistance in clams will improve managers

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