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Harmful Algae. 2015 Sep;48:83-93. Epub 2015 Aug 12.

Ichthyotoxic Karlodinium veneficum (Ballantine) J Larsen in the Upper Swan River Estuary (Western Australia): Ecological conditions leading to a fish kill.

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University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, 701 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202, USA.
US FDA Washington Seafood Laboratory, 8301 Muirkirk Rd., Laurel, MD 20708, USA.


Ichthyotoxic Karlodinium veneficum has become a persistent problem in the eutrophic Swan River Estuary (SRE) near Perth, Western Australia. Karlotoxin (KmTx) concentrations and K. veneficum were sampled from March to July 2005, spanning a bloom confirmed by microscopy and genetics (ITS sequence), and a fish kill coincident with end of the bloom. The objective of this study was to investigate K. veneficum cell and toxin dynamics, and water quality conditions, leading up to the bloom and fish kill in this estuarine system. Abundance of K. veneficum increased as diatom abundance decreased over a 3-month period (Jan-Mar) preceding the bloom. Low freshwater flow to the SRE characterized the bloom initiation period, while elevated seasonal flows altered water quality and preceded the end of the bloom and fish kill. The bloom of K. veneficum was localized over a bottom layer of hypoxic water in a stratified water column. Low nitrate levels, DIN:DIP (mol) near unity, and particulate C:N:P of K. veneficum-rich water samples were consistent with nitrogen limitation of phytoplankton. A KmTx 2 congener was present in the concentration range 0-1052 ng KmTx mL-1, levels that were sufficient to kill larval fish in the laboratory within 4 h. A KmTx cell quota of 2.8 pg KmTx cell-1 was estimated for the bloom, which is moderately high for the species. Gill histopathology of fish from this fish kill showed signs of damage similar to those caused by KmTx in the lab. Results from this study suggest that conditions in the SRE, including elevated K. veneficum abundance and KmTx cell quotas, as well as hypoxia in the upper SRE, likely contribute to seasonal fish kills observed in this system.


Fish kill; Karlodinium veneficum; Karlotoxins; Swan River Estuary

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