MEPS 203:95-107 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps203095

Accumulation of red tide toxins in larger size fractions of zooplankton assemblages from Massachusetts Bay, USA

Jefferson T. Turner1,*, Gregory J. Doucette2,3, Christine L. Powell2, David M. Kulis4, Bruce A. Keafer4, Donald M. Anderson4

1Center for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Boulevard, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02744, USA
2Marine Biotoxins Program, NOAA/NOS Center for Coastal Environmental Health & Biomolecular Research, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
3Marine Biomedical & Environmental Science, Medical University of South Carolina, 221 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
4Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Phytoplankton toxins undergo trophic transport and accumulation in marine food webs, causing vectorial intoxication of upper-level consumers such as fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals. An entry point for phytoplankton toxins into these pelagic trophic pathways is frequently the herbivorous zooplankton. During the 1995 spring-summer red tide season in Massachusetts Bay, we examined accumulation of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins from the dinoflagellate Alexandrium spp. in various plankton size fractions (20-64, 64-100, 100-200, 200-500, and >500 µm), and identified the relative composition of the zooplankton in these size fractions. Toxin levels were estimated by both high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and a receptor-binding assay, the latter based on sample toxic potency. Although no PSP toxicity was detected in nearshore shellfish by routine monitoring programs using the mouse bioassay, positive responses were detected in zooplankton size fractions with the more sensitive HPLC and the receptor assay methods. The toxin signal was disproportionately concentrated in the larger zooplankton size fraction, frequently dominated by large copepods such as Calanus finmarchicus and Centropages typicus, which comprised only a small portion of total zooplankton abundance in quantitative samples obtained with 100 µm mesh nets. By comparison, signal levels were low or undetectable in the smaller size fraction, which contained the overwhelmingly most-abundant zooplankters such as protists, copepod nauplii and copepodites and adults of small copepods such as Oithona similis, Paracalanus parvus, and Pseudocalanus spp. The larger toxin-accumulating copepods could provide a direct trophic linkage for vectorial intoxication of baleen whales that are known to feed upon such copepods.

KEY WORDS: Red tide · Harmful algal blooms · Zooplankton · Copepods · Algal toxins · Vectorial intoxication · Massachusetts Bay · Gulf of Maine

Full text in pdf format