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Relative importance of nitrogen sources, algal alarm cues and grazer exposure to toxin production of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella

Griffin, Jessica E., Park, Gihong, Dam, Hans G.
Harmful algae 2019 v.84 pp. 181-187
Acartia hudsonica, Alexandrium catenella, Bacillariophyceae, Tetraselmis, Thalassiosira, ammonium, biotic factors, nitrogen, paralytic shellfish toxins, poisonous algae, seawater, urea
Dinoflagellate paralytic shellfish toxin (PST) production is mediated by several abiotic and biotic factors. This study compared the relative importance of nitrogen source and concentration, prey alarm cues and grazer presence on toxin production of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella (Group I, strain BF-5). In separate assays run under either nutrient-replete (F/2 medium) or nutrient-depleted (filtered seawater) conditions, PST production of A. catenella was measured as a function of varying concentrations of added nitrogen sources (ammonium and urea), alarm cues from lysed conspecific (A. catenella Group I strains) and interspecific (the diatom, Thalassiosira weissflogii, and the green flagellate, Tetraselmis sp.) algae, and the presence of a grazer (the copepod Acartia hudsonica). Results showed that addition of ammonium or urea did not increase PST production. Unexpectedly, interspecific alarm cues increased toxin production but conspecific ones did not. Grazer presence dramatically induced PST production in A. catenella, irrespective of nutrient conditions, and this effect was an order of magnitude greater than any of the other variables tested. These results corroborate previous studies on grazer-induced PST production, and support the hypothesis that grazer-induced toxin production is not an experimental artifact, but rather a prey defense mechanism.