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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 40:121-132 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/ame040121

Evaluating vertical migration behavior of harmful raphidophytes in the Delaware Inland Bays utilizing quantitative real-time PCR

S. M. Handy1, K. J. Coyne1, K. J. Portune1, E. Demir1, M. A. Doblin2, C. E. Hare1, S. C. Cary1, D. A. Hutchins1,*

1University of Delaware, Graduate College of Marine Studies, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA
2Institute of Water and Environmental Resource Management, Department of Environmental Science, University of Technology, Westbourne St, Gore Hill, New South Wales 2065, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Mixed blooms of 4 species of harmful raphidophytes (Chattonella cf. verruculosa, Chattonella subsalsa, Heterosigma akashiwo, and Fibrocapsa japonica) occur in the shallow (1 to 2 m) Delaware Inland Bays (DIB), USA. Raphidophytes vertically migrate in other deeper water ecosystems to utilize deep nutrient stocks at night, and thus obtain an advantage over non-migrating algae. Anoxic DIB sediments release high levels of bioavailable phosphate, which could potentially be used by vertically migrating flagellates. This study aimed to characterize and understand the migration patterns of DIB raphidophytes, and determine whether benthic phosphate fluxes could provide the cells with P. We demonstrated vertical migration of isolated DIB raphidophyte cultures in the laboratory, where differences in the response of C. subsalsa and H. akashiwo to light:dark period manipulations suggested possible differences in external versus endogenous regulation of migration behavior in the 2 species. Natural blooms in the field (enclosed in a mesocosm system) also exhibited patterns of diel vertical migration, as determined by quantitative real-time PCR (QPCR) used to enumerate the diel vertical distributions of each species. Our data suggested that these 2 photoautotrophic species spend daylight hours near the surface and are found directly on the sediment surface at night. However, diel changes in particulate C:P ratios did not support the hypothesis that there is preferential uptake of sedimentary phosphate at night. Our results also suggested that the migration behavior may have important implications for designing sampling strategies for monitoring programs. QPCR has a number of decisive advantages over traditional microscopic counting methods, making this a powerful tool for fine spatial and temporal scale detection and enumeration of vertically migrating harmful algal species.

KEY WORDS: Raphidophytes · Delaware Inland Bays · Vertical migration · Quantitative real-time PCR · Chattonella subsalsa · Heterosigma akashiwo

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