MEPS 460:145-153 (2012) - doi:10.3354/meps09768
Saxitoxin exposure in an endangered fish: association of a shortnose sturgeon mortality event with a harmful algal bloom
Spencer E. Fire1,*, Jessica Pruden2, Darcie Couture3, Zhihong Wang1, Marie-Yasmine Dechraoui Bottein1, Bennie L. Haynes1, Trey Knott1, Deborah Bouchard4, Anne Lichtenwalner4, Gail Wippelhauser5
ABSTRACT: Saxitoxin (STX)-producing blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate genus Alexandrium have been responsible for devastating ecosystem-wide impacts in coastal waters of the northeastern USA. In the summer of 2009, a severe Alexandrium bloom in New England coastal waters co-occurred with a shortnose sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum mortality event in Sagadahoc Bay, Maine, USA. Thirteen individuals of this endangered fish species were found dead on 10 July 2009, and this die-off was associated with extremely high Alexandrium cell densities, record-breaking toxin burdens (>80000 ng g−1) in shellfish, and closures of shellfish beds affecting nearly the entire Maine coastline. STX-like activity was detected in sturgeon (n = 3) stomach contents and liver and gill tissues via neuroblastoma assay and receptor-binding assay at concentrations ranging between 37 and 2300 ng STX-eq. g−1 (STX equivalents per gram sample). Stomach content analyses of the 3 necropsied sturgeon carcasses showed a large number of amethyst gem clams Gemma gemma. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry confirmed the presence of STX and related congeners in sturgeon stomach contents, at concentrations between 311 and 743 ng g−1. The present study marks the first reported detection of STXs in shortnose sturgeon, and provides evidence of trophic transfer of Alexandrium toxins as a potential cause of mortality in this event, as well as a threat to the health of this endangered population of fish.
KEY WORDS: Saxitoxin · Sturgeon · Harmful algal bloom · Paralytic shellfish toxin · HAB · Acipenser brevirostrum · Maine
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