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      The diversity and origins of toxins in ciguatera fish poisoning.

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      Puerto Rico health sciences journal

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          Abstract

          The source of the diversity of phytotoxins found in the marine food web is not well understood. It is not clear what roles these secondary metabolites might have in the phytoplankton that produce them. The phytotoxins do not appear to be deterrents of predation, although the production of antibiotics by marine macroalgae might be considered in this light (86). It is equally doubtful that the production and/or presence of these toxins confers a selective advantage on the phytoplankton producers, when in fact the diversity of naturally occurring phytoplankton species may well be maintained by lytic viral infections (22,64). On the other hand, these multiple, diverse toxins may be the products of the different adaptations and interactions that take place between microalgal vectors and the highly variable spectrum of their microbial symbionts. We do not know what selective signals these toxic products may be providing in the maintenance of the symbiont-host consortia in which they are produced, however, their diversity most likely reflects the diversity of symbiotic interactions that exist in these consortia. Woven into the very fabric of the traditional marine food web is an invisible empire of marine micro-organisms, that by its very existence may determine the intense diversity of toxins found in marine biota. Marine bacteria are very likely the most abundant organisms in the sea and to a large degree maintain a food web of their own, often referred to as the microbial loop (64). This microbial web sustains the biogeochemical cycles in the sea. Much of the food produced by phytoplankton and cyanobacteria is consumed by bacteria in the microbial loop and may never enter the food web of larger invertebrates and fishes. Traditionally, the marine food web has been viewed, so to speak, from the top, however, it is now clear that there is an enormous marine microbial food web from which the food web of larger invertebrates and fishes emanates (Figure 13). In many respects the phytotoxins are biomarkers of the interactions between these two food webs. In their very diversity these toxins reflect an amalgam of interacting collaborating forms of life, a complex of phytoplankton hosts and their microbial symbionts producing multiple toxins and their derivatives that ultimately result in the complex medical symptoms they produce in human consumers of poisoned seafood. The term ciguatera has been employed to describe the syndrome of the illness contracted by persons who have eaten tropical and semitropical finfish poisoned by ciguatoxin.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          P R Health Sci J
          Puerto Rico health sciences journal
          0738-0658
          0738-0658
          Jun 1995
          : 14
          : 2
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico 00731.
          Article
          7617831
          370cb574-2b6b-4ce5-9731-dcbb59214868
          History

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