MEPS 368:283-294 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07643

Prevalence of brevetoxins in prey fish of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida

Spencer E. Fire1,4,*, Leanne J. Flewelling2, Jerome Naar3, Michael J. Twiner1, Michael S. Henry4, Richard H. Pierce4, Damon P. Gannon4, Zhihong Wang1, Leigh Davidson1, Randall S. Wells5

1Marine Biotoxins Program, NOAA-National Ocean Service, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
2Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
3Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina 28409, USA
4Mote Marine Laboratory, and 5Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA

ABSTRACT: Blooms of the brevetoxin-producing dinoflagellate Karenia brevis have been linked to high mortality of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast. A clear understanding of trophic transfer of brevetoxin from its algal source up the food web to top predators is needed to assess exposure of affected dolphin populations. Prey fish constitute a means of accumulating and transferring brevetoxins and are potential vectors of brevetoxin to dolphins frequently exposed to K. brevis blooms. Here we report results of brevetoxin analyses of the primary fish species consumed by long-term resident bottlenose dolphins inhabiting Sarasota Bay, Florida. Fish collected during K. brevis blooms in 2003 to 2006 were analyzed by competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and had brevetoxin concentrations ranging from 4 to 10844 ng PbTx-3 eq g–1 tissue. Receptor binding assay (RBA) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis confirmed toxicity and the presence of parent brevetoxins and known metabolites. Fish collected in the absence of K. brevis blooms tested positive for brevetoxin by ELISA and RBA, with concentrations up to 1500 ng PbTx-3 eq g–1 tissue. These findings implicate prey fish exposed to K. brevis blooms as brevetoxin vectors for their dolphin predators and provide a critical analysis of persistent brevetoxin loads in the food web of dolphins repeatedly exposed to Florida red tides.

KEY WORDS: Brevetoxin · Karenia brevis · Tursiops truncatus · Harmful algal blooms · Algal toxins · Bottlenose dolphin · Marine biotoxins · HAB · Red tide

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Cite this article as: Fire SE, Flewelling LJ, Naar J, Twiner MJ and others (2008) Prevalence of brevetoxins in prey fish of bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 368:283-294

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