Extensive genetic diversity and rapid population differentiation during blooms of Alexandrium fundyense (Dinophyceae) in an isolated salt pond on Cape Cod, MA, USA. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • In Massachusetts, paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is annually recurrent along the coastline, including within several small embayments on Cape Cod. One such system, the Nauset Marsh System (NMS), supports extensive marshes and a thriving shellfishing industry. Over the last decade, PSP in the NMS has grown significantly worse; however, the origins and dynamics of the toxic Alexandrium fundyense (Balech) populations that bloom within the NMS are not well known. This study examined a collection of 412 strains isolated from the NMS and the Gulf of Maine (GOM) in 2006-2007 to investigate the genetic characteristics of localized blooms and assess connectivity with coastal populations. Comparisons of genetic differentiation showed that A. fundyense blooms in the NMS exhibited extensive clonal diversity and were genetically distinct from populations in the GOM. In both project years, genetic differentiation was observed among temporal samples collected from the NMS, sometimes occurring on the order of approximately 7 days. The underlying reasons for temporal differentiation are unknown, but may be due, in part, to life-cycle characteristics unique to the populations in shallow embayments, or possibly driven by selection from parasitism and zooplankton grazing; these results highlight the need to investigate the role of selective forces in the genetic dynamics of bloom populations. The small geographic scale and limited connectivity of NMS salt ponds provide a novel system for investigating regulators of blooms, as well as the influence of selective forces on population structure, all of which are otherwise difficult or impossible to study in the adjacent open-coastal waters or within larger estuaries.

publication date

  • October 2012