Control of Toxic Marine Dinoflagellate Blooms by Serial Parasitic Killers

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Science  21 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5905, pp. 1254-1257
DOI: 10.1126/science.1164387

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The marine dinoflagellates commonly responsible for toxic red tides are parasitized by other dinoflagellate species. Using culture-independent environmental ribosomal RNA sequences and fluorescence markers, we identified host-specific infections among several species. Each parasitoid produces 60 to 400 offspring, leading to extraordinarily rapid control of the host's population. During 3 consecutive years of observation in a natural estuary, all dinoflagellates observed were chronically infected, and a given host species was infected by a single genetically distinct parasite year after year. Our observations in natural ecosystems suggest that although bloom-forming dinoflagellates may escape control by grazing organisms, they eventually succumb to parasite attack.

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