DAO 123:87-99 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03096

Pufferfish mortality associated with novel polar marine toxins in Hawaii

Thierry M. Work1,*, Peter D. R. Moeller2, Kevin R. Beauchesne2, Julie Dagenais1, Renee Breeden1, Robert Rameyer1, William J. Walsh3, Melanie Abecassis4, Donald R. Kobayashi5, Carla Conway6, James Winton

1US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center-Honolulu Field Station, Honolulu, HI 96850, USA
2National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
3Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740-2721, USA
4Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
5National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA
6US Geological Survey, Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fish die-offs are important signals in tropical marine ecosystems. In 2010, a mass mortality of pufferfish in Hawaii (USA) was dominated by Arothron hispidus showing aberrant neurological behaviors. Using pathology, toxinology, and field surveys, we implicated a series of novel, polar, marine toxins as a likely cause of this mass mortality. Our findings are striking in that (1) a marine toxin was associated with a kill of a fish species that is itself toxic; (2) we provide a plausible mechanism to explain clinical signs of affected fish; and (3) this epizootic likely depleted puffer populations. Whilst our data are compelling, we did not synthesize the toxin de novo, and we were unable to categorically prove that the polar toxins caused mortality or that they were metabolites of an undefined parent compound. However, our approach does provide a template for marine fish kill investigations associated with marine toxins and inherent limitations of existing methods. Our study also highlights the need for more rapid and cost-effective tools to identify new marine toxins, particularly small, highly polar molecules.


KEY WORDS: Dereplication · Pathology · Tetraodontidae · Toxinology · Virology


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Cite this article as: Work TM, Moeller PDR, Beauchesne KR, Dagenais J and others (2017) Pufferfish mortality associated with novel polar marine toxins in Hawaii. Dis Aquat Org 123:87-99. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03096

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