Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NC State Scientists Confirm Second Toxic Pfiesteria Species

Date:
March 14, 2000
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Scientists at North Carolina State University have confirmed the existence of a second species of Pfiesteria, a toxic microbe linked to fish kills -- and, in some cases, to human health problems -- along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Scientists at North Carolina State University have confirmed the existence of a second species of Pfiesteria, a toxic microbe linked to fish kills -- and, in some cases, to human health problems -- along the mid-Atlantic coast.Researchers from NC State’s Aquatic Botany Laboratory will present their findings, including a description of the new species, Pfiesteria shumwayae, on Saturday, March 11, at the Southeastern Estuarine Research Society (SEERS) conference in Wilmington, N.C.

Related Articles


Dr. JoAnn M. Burkholder, NC State professor of aquatic botany and marine sciences, says P. shumwayae is the second species identified from "the toxic Pfiesteria complex," a group of closely related dinoflagellate marine organisms believed responsible for killing millions of fish from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

"As our knowledge of these organisms grows and improved techniques become available to detect them, we’ll probably identify a dozen separate species," said Burkholder, the world’s leading Pfiesteria expert. "We’re still just knocking on the door with this discovery."

Burkholder co-discovered the first Pfiesteria species, Pfiesteria piscicida, in 1989. "Piscicida" in Latin means "fish killer."

Research under Burkholder’s direction at the NC State Aquatic Botany Lab found that P. shumwayae -- pronounced "shum-way-eye" -- is genetically and structurally different from its better-known cousin, P. piscicida. Additionally, the two species appear to respond somewhat differently to the enrichment of nutrients that are often overabundant in coastal waters: P. shumwayae appears to thrive best in waters with high levels of nitrogen, while P. piscicida seems to prefer increased phosphorus levels, although both nitrogen and phosphorus can stimulate it to grow.

Scientists first detected P. shumwayae -- which they suspected to be a new species -- during a 1995 fish kill in North Carolina’s New River estuary, following a major spill of effluent from a hog waste lagoon. During two years of testing by Burkholder and associate Howard Glasgow Jr.’s lab, as well as by an independent lab for careful corroboration, all the tests confirmed that the organism is toxic.

Researchers have discovered other Pfiesteria "lookalike" organisms, but P. shumwayae is the first truly Pfiesteria-like organism -- besides P. piscicida -- to be found harmful to fish.

Burkholder said that the life cycle and behavior of P. shumwayae are identical to those of P. piscicida. Like P. piscicida, the newly described species has a complex series of life stages, most of which are nontoxic. "So far, we’ve confirmed that 19 of its stages are similar to those of piscicida, and we believe that it’s only a matter of time before we verify that the other stages are also the same," she said.

Most of those stages are nontoxic in both species. In the presence of live fish, however, several stages of both species generate toxins that stun the fish and cause open sores on their skin; the microbes then feed on the fish tissue and blood. Both also prefer to prey on the same kinds of algae when fish are not available, and can "steal" plant-like organelles from algae to masquerade as microscopic plants.

NC State researchers, however, found dissimilarities in the structure and the genetic makeup of the two species. Molecular probes identified a 3 percent difference between the two species’ DNA.

Glasgow spent 200 hours over two years mapping the surface of hundreds of Pfiesteria zoospores using a scanning electron microscope. In so doing, he found that many specimens had a different "fingerprint" -- they had a four-sided structural plate on the outside of the cells where P. piscicida had a three-sided plate.

"The difference between these species is the difference between a diamond and a triangle," Burkholder explained.

Thus far, P. shumwayae has been found to overlap the geographic distribution of P. piscicida: The single-celled organisms inhabit the brackish waters of estuaries from the Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound south to the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama.

Burkholder named the new species in honor of Dr. Sandra E. Shumway, professor of biology and marine science at Southampton College in New York. "Dr. Shumway is a premier scientist studying harmful algal blooms," she said. "She’s done some of the most significant pioneering research on how toxic algal blooms impact wild and cultured shellfish populations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "NC State Scientists Confirm Second Toxic Pfiesteria Species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000314071259.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2000, March 14). NC State Scientists Confirm Second Toxic Pfiesteria Species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000314071259.htm
North Carolina State University. "NC State Scientists Confirm Second Toxic Pfiesteria Species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000314071259.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins