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Pufferfish mortality associated with novel polar marine toxins in Hawaii

March 20, 2017

Fish die-offs are important signals in tropical marine ecosystems. In 2010, a mass mortality of pufferfish in Hawaii (USA) was dominated by Arothron hispidus showing aberrant neurological behaviors. Using pathology, toxinology, and field surveys, we implicated a series of novel, polar, marine toxins as a likely cause of this mass mortality. Our findings are striking in that (1) a marine toxin was associated with a kill of a fish species that is itself toxic; (2) we provide a plausible mechanism to explain clinical signs of affected fish; and (3) this epizootic likely depleted puffer populations. Whilst our data are compelling, we did not synthesize the toxin de novo, and we were unable to categorically prove that the polar toxins caused mortality or that they were metabolites of an undefined parent compound. However, our approach does provide a template for marine fish kill investigations associated with marine toxins and inherent limitations of existing methods. Our study also highlights the need for more rapid and cost-effective tools to identify new marine toxins, particularly small, highly polar molecules.

Publication Year 2017
Title Pufferfish mortality associated with novel polar marine toxins in Hawaii
DOI 10.3354/dao03096
Authors Thierry M. Work, Perer D. R. Moeller, Kevin R. Beauchesne, Julie Dagenais, Renee Breeden, Robert Rameyer, Willliam A. Walsh, Melanie Abecassis, Donald R. Kobayashi, Carla M. Conway, James Winton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Diseases of Aquatic Organisms
Index ID 70185295
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center; Western Fisheries Research Center