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Pyrodinium cysts in manatee stomach contents: harmless tourists or Trojan horses?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Biology Education Centre.
2010 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

First described by Plate (1906), Pyrodinium bahamense is a bioluminescent dinoflagellate species which forms a resting cyst as part of its life cycle.  P. bahamense forms large dense cyst beds in the flocculent layer of sediments and can remain dormant for decades before excysting and forming blooms.  The Atlantic strain has recently been discovered to produce a neurotoxin called saxitoxin.  Although saxitoxins are most commonly associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning, saxitoxin produced by P. bahamense has been implicated in a number of human illnesses following the consumption of contaminated puffer fish originating from the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.  The discovery of P. bahamense cysts on seagrass blades during an ongoing bloom raised the question of whether manatees, whose diet is composed mainly of seagrass, could be at risk of exposure to saxitoxins.  The aim of this study was to determine whether P. bahamense cysts can be digested in the manatee gastrointestinal tract or if they would pass through intact.  There are no known methods for purifying P. bahamense cysts from the contents of the manatee gastrointestinal tract, so it was necessary to develop an appropriate protocol using cysts purified from sediments in Tampa Bay, Florida.  These methods were then to be used to test whether P. bahamense cysts added to manatee digesta break down over time, and also to test archived digesta samples for presence of cysts.  A successful method for purifying cysts from manatee digesta could not be developed during the span of this study, and so no conclusions could be drawn about the likelihood of digestion.  However, archived samples were found to contain P. bahamense cysts, confirming that manatees are ingesting them while feeding.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. , 31 p.
Keyword [en]
Florida manatee, Pyrodinium bahamense, saxitoxin
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-137570OAI: diva2:378271
Life Earth Science
Available from: 2011-03-04 Created: 2010-12-15 Last updated: 2011-03-04Bibliographically approved

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