Home > Explore Data & Reports > Gambierdiscus species exhibit different epiphytic behaviors toward a variety of macroalgal hosts


Rains, L.K., and M.L. Parsons. 2015. Gambierdiscus species exhibit different epiphytic behaviors toward a variety of macroalgal hosts. Harmful Algae, 49:29-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2015.08.005

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Ciguatera fish poisoning is a common form of seafood poisoning caused by toxins (ciguatoxins) that accumulate in demersal (reef) food webs. The precursors of ciguatoxins are produced by dinoflagellates of the genus Gambierdiscus, and enter the food web via herbivory and detritivory. The Gambierdiscus genus was recently revised and new research on the physiology and ecology of the revised species is needed. While it has been demonstrated that Gambierdiscus spp. are predominately epiphytic, the variability in epiphytic behavior among the various Gambierdiscus species is not known. Five Gambierdiscus species isolated from the Greater Caribbean Region were the focus of this study (G. belizeanus, G. caribaeus, G. carolinianus, G. carpenteri, and G. yasumotoi). Cells of Gambierdiscus were grown in wells with algae fragments from eight different macroalgal host genera (Acanthophora, Caulerpa, Dasya, Derbesia, Dictyota, Laurencia, Polysiphonia, and Ulva) where the epiphytic behavior and growth of the different Gambierdiscus species were monitored over 29 days. The results of this experiment demonstrate that epiphytic behavior (growth and attachment) differs among the Gambierdiscus species toward the various macroalgal hosts. Results tended to be specific to Gambierdiscus – host pairings with few commonalities in the way a particular Gambierdiscus species interacted across hosts or how the various Gambierdiscus species responded to a particular host. The Gambierdiscus – host pairings that resulted in the highest growth and attachment combinations were examined in terms of known cellular toxicity and host palatability to determine which pairings could represent the most likely vectors for the transfer of ciguatoxins (or precursors) into the demersal food web. Two pairings, Gambierdiscus belizeanus – Polysiphonia and G. belizeanus – Dictyota, best met these criteria, providing a hypothetical approach to better focus sampling and monitoring efforts on such potential vectors in the benthic environment.

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