Toxicity in Resting Cysts of the Red-Tide Dinoflagellate Gonyaulax excavata from Deeper Water Coastal Sediments

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Science  29 Sep 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4362, pp. 1223-1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.201.4362.1223


For the first time, Gonyaulax excavata cysts have been shown to be toxic. Bottom sediments from a water depth of 90 meters off the Maine coast were extremely rich in cysts, which were approximately ten times more toxic than the corresponding motile stages. Cysts are probably ingested by shellfish, thereby causing shellfish toxicity in deeper waters offshore and contributing to shellfish toxicity in shallower coastal waters. A new approach to the problem of paralytic shellfish poisoning is therefore needed, one that takes into account benthic cysts and sedimentary factors affecting their distribution. The possible dangers of spreading poisoning through human activities must be considered.