Characterization, dynamics, and ecological impacts of harmful Cochlodinium polykrikoides blooms on eastern Long Island, NY, USA

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Harmful Algae
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We report on the emergence of Cochlodinium polykrikigides blooms in the Peconic Estuary and Shinnecock Bay, NY, USA, during 2002-2006. Blooms occurred during late summer when temperatures and salinities ranged from 20 to 25 degrees C and 22 to 30 ppt, respectively. Bloom patches achieved cell densities exceeding 10(5) ml(-1) and chlorophyll a levels exceeding 100 mu g l(-1), while background bloom densities were typically 10(3)- 10(4) cells ml(-1). Light, scanning electron and ultrathin-section transmission electron microscopy suggested that cells isolated from blooms displayed characteristics of C. polykrikoides and provide the first clear documentation of the fine structure for this species. Sequencing of a hypervariable region of the large subunit rDNA confirmed this finding, displaying 100% similarity to other North American C polykrikoides strains, but a lower similarity to strains from Southeast Asia (88-90%). Bioassay experiments demonstrated that 24 h exposure to bloom waters (>5 x 10(4) cells ml(-1)) killed 100% of multiple fish species (1-week-old Cyprinodon variegates, adult Fundulus majalis, adult Menidia menidia) and 80% of adult Fundulus heteroclitus. Microscopic evaluation of the gills of moribund fish revealed epithelial proliferation with focal areas of fusion of gill lamellae, suggesting impairment of gill function (e.g. respiration, nitrogen excretion, ion balance). Lower fish mortality was observed at intermediate C. polykrikoides densities (10(3)-10(4) cells ml(-1)), while fish survived for 48 h at cell densities below 1 x 10(3) cells ml(-1). The inability of frozen and thawed-, or filtered (0.2 mu m)-bloom water to cause fish mortality suggested that the thick polysaccharide layer associated with cell membranes and/or a toxin principle within this layer may be responsible for fish mortality. Juvenile bay scallops (A rgopecten irradians) and American oysters (Crassostrea virginica) experienced elevated mortality compared to control treatments during a 9-day exposure to bloom water (similar to 5 x 10(4) cells ml(-1)). Surviving scallops exposed to bloom water also experienced significantly reduced growth rates. Moribund shellfish displayed hyperplasia, hemorrhaging, squarnation, and apoptosis in gill and digestive tissues with gill inflammation specifically associated with areas containing C. polykrikoides cells. In summary, our results indicate C. polykrikoides blooms have become annual events on eastern Long Island and that bloom waters are capable of causing rapid mortality in multiple species of finfish and shellfish. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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DOI 10.1016/j.hal.2007.12.006