Parallel Analyses Of Alexandrium Catenella Cell Concentrations And Shellfish Toxicity In The Puget Sound
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Alexandrium catenella is widespread in western North America and produces a suite of potent neurotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans and have deleterious impacts on public health and economic resources. There are seasonal PSP-related closures of recreational and commercial shellfisheries in the Puget Sound, but the factors that influence cell distribution, abundance, and relationship to paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) in this system are poorly described. Here, a quantitative PCR assay was used to detect A. catenella cells in parallel with state shellfish toxicity testing during the 2006 bloom season at 41 sites from April through October. Over 500,000 A. catenella cells liter(-1) were detected at several stations, with two main pulses of cells driving cell distribution, one in June and the other in August. PSTs over the closure limit of 80 mu g of PST 100 per g of shellfish tissue were detected at 26 of the 41 sites. Comparison of cell numbers and PST data shows that shellfish toxicity is preceded by an increase in A. catenella cells in 71% of cases. However, cells were also observed in the absence of PSTs in shellfish, highlighting the complex relationship between A. catenella and the resulting shellfish toxicity. These data provide important information on the dynamics of A. catenella cells in the Puget Sound and are a first step toward assessing the utility of plankton monitoring to augment shellfish toxicity testing in this system.