You are here: Home / News / Harmful Algal Blooms / ‘Trigger’ for Toxin Production in Florida and Texas Red Tides Discovered: Explains Near Shore Impacts

‘Trigger’ for Toxin Production in Florida and Texas Red Tides Discovered: Explains Near Shore Impacts

Why “red tide” dinoflagellates make compounds that are toxic to fish and humans has been a mystery for decades. Possible functions include aiding prey capture, deterring grazers, or neutralizing competitors. NCCOS-sponsored scientists at Texas A&M University studying Karenia brevis, the dinoflagellate responsible for “red tides” in the Gulf of Mexico, have an explanation.

In the June 13 2011, online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, graduate student Reagan M. Errera and Professor Lisa Campbell, at Texas A&M University, have identified a trigger for production of brevetoxin, the potent neurotoxin found in Karenia brevis. They suggest as “red tides” move onshore and mix with fresher water, the Karenia cells adjust rapidly to the lesser salinity by dramatically increasing the brevetoxin concentration in their cells.

These findings provide a reason for brevetoxin production – long a critical gap in knowledge for K. brevis. It also means that maximum toxicity will be near shore where human impacts will be greatest. The toxins are released when waves break at beaches during red tides, causing respiratory problems for tourists and residents near beaches.  Further, the toxins are taken up by near shore shellfish, making the shellfish so toxic to humans that commercial and recreational harvesting must be banned.

This research is conducted under the auspices of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

  • Read the Texas A&M Press Release, here.
  • Read the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here.

Related NCCOS Center(s):
Related Region(s):
Shorter web link for sharing: https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/news/?p=2154

Related News and Features

  • Mapping Toxic Caribbean HabitatsMapping Toxic Caribbean Habitats NCCOS and Carleton University (CU) scientists joined forces to map potentially toxic fishing grounds in the Caribbean by tracking the movement of ciguatoxic fish over an extended period of […]
  • NCCOS Welcomes New Sea Grant FellowNCCOS Welcomes New Sea Grant Fellow NCCOS is pleased to welcome and host Knauss Marine Policy Fellow Dr. Trevor Meckley in 2016. Trevor has a PhD in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and is sponsored […]
  • New Technologies and Platforms Transforming OceanographyNew Technologies and Platforms Transforming Oceanography The journal Science recently declared that new technologies are making remote sensing of the ocean a “new wave” of oceanography. This growing array of lower-cost, high-tech […]
  • NOAA Forecasts and Responds to Lake Erie Harmful Algal BloomNOAA Forecasts and Responds to Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom NOAA scientists are supporting the response to a bloom of cyanobacteria that contaminated drinking water in Lake Erie on August 2nd, leaving nearly 400,000 in Toledo, OH without drinking […]
  • Research Reveals New Insights into Algae MysteryResearch Reveals New Insights into Algae Mystery A study by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers posits a new theory to help explain a long-standing puzzle in plankton ecology: despite limited nutrients, why is there […]