MEPS 245:1-10 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps245001

Interactions between the toxic estuarine dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida and two species of bivalve molluscs

Jeffrey J. Springer1,*, Sandra E. Shumway2, JoAnn M. Burkholder1, Howard B. Glasgow1

1Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, North Carolina State University, 620 Hutton Street, Suite 104, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, USA
2Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, 1080 Shennecossett Road, Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA

ABSTRACT: Toxic strains of Pfiesteria spp. produce toxin(s) that can cause finfish death, but much less is known about impacts of Pfiesteria on shellfish. Here we conducted 4 experiments to examine interactions between shellfish and toxic (actively toxic or TOX-A from finfish-killing cultures and potentially toxic or TOX-B from cultures without finfish) and non-inducible (NON-IND, apparently incapable of killing fish via a toxic effect) strains of P. piscicida. First (Expt 1), we documented direct physical attack by P. piscicida TOX-A, TOX-B, and NON-IND zoospores on larvae of the bay scallop Argopecten irradians (Lamarck, 1819) and the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin, 1791). Within 5 min zoospores swarmed around larvae that had discarded their vela, and attached with their peduncles. Within 15 min they had penetrated into the shellfish visceral cavity and had begun to feed aggressively; after 30 min all shellfish tissues except the adductor muscle had been consumed. Second, we tested the response of scallop larvae to P. piscicida (TOX-A or TOX-B) or cryptomonads (as controls) that were held in dialysis tubing (0.22 µm porosity) to prevent direct contact. After 60 min larval survival was 0% in the TOX-A treatment, 100% in the cryptomonad control, and intermediate in TOX-B and TOX-B + cryptomonad treatments. The data indicate a toxic effect of P. piscicida zoospores on the larvae, separate from the physical effect shown in Expt 1. Third, we compared grazing by juvenile and adult oysters on TOX-A, TOX-B, and NON-IND P. piscicida zoospores from the medium. After 60 min, grazing by juvenile oysters significantly differed as NON-IND >> TOX-B >> TOX-A. In contrast, adult oysters grazed significantly fewer TOX-A zoospores and maintained comparable grazing on TOX-B and NON-IND zoospores. Thus juvenile oysters, but not adults, were sensitive to residual toxicity of TOX-B zoospores, and both life-history stages were sensitive to TOX-A zoospores. The adverse effects of toxic strains on larval survival and juvenile grazing indicate that P. piscicida could potentially affect shellfish recruitment. Fourth, we assessed zoospore survival after passage through the digestive tract of adult oysters. The feces contained many temporary cysts from zoospores, and within 24 h >75% of the cysts produced motile cells. The data indicate that adult oysters would be poor biocontrol agents of P. piscicida, given the high survival of ingested zoospores following gut passage and fecal elimination; and that oysters could act as vectors of toxic P. piscicida strains if transported from affected estuaries to other waters.

KEY WORDS: Argopecten irradians · Crassostrea virginica · Oyster · Pfiesteria · Scallop · Shellfish · Temporary cyst · Toxic dinoflagellate

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