Bloom formation potential in the harmful dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea: Clues from movement behaviors and growth characteristics

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We measured the growth rates and swimming behaviors of recently isolated strains of the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea to investigate to what degree growth and motility could contribute to the formation of in situ blooms. To quantify the effect of variation in in situ conditions on population growth rate, we applied two temperature treatments (10°C and 20°C) and measured growth in still conditions and on a shaker table, to emulate mild turbulence. To quantify the importance of intra-strain variability and trait variation in the species growth potential and vertical distribution, we included six strains isolated from a spatially and temporally extensive bloom on the US West Coast. Overall, as reported previously, A. sanguinea was observed to tolerate conditions amounting to a broad ecological niche with intra-specific variability further broadening tolerable conditions. In agreement with prior observations of slow growth rates of the species, average growth rates across all strains increased significantly from 0.12 d-1 (±0.03) at 10°C to 0.28 d-1 (±0.13) at 20°C in still conditions. Contrary to prior reports, mild turbulence had neutral or positive effects on most strains' growth rates, with one strain only able to grow on the shaker table. Growth rates in mild turbulence were higher than in still conditions and increased from 0.15 d-1 (±0.01) at 10°C to 0.43 d-1 (± 0.04) at 20°C. There was significant intra-strain variation in growth rates (>50% coefficient of variation) and movement behaviors. All strains had both up and down swimming fractions, leading to predictions of vertically patchy distributions, rather than surface aggregations. Slow growth rates and dispersive swimming behaviors suggest in situ mortality must be low and tolerance of seasonally varying water temperatures lead to accumulation and persistence of cells over months and kilometers. Estimates of in situ loss rates are a critical but missing component of identifying the bloom formation mechanisms of this species.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Harmful Algae