Microbe's poison linked to fish kills

BALTIMORE, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A microbe linked to toxic algae blooms in the Chesapeake Bay emits a poison to protect itself and to stun its equally tiny prey, Maryland scientists said.

Knowing the hunting habits of Karlodinium veneficum could help reduce fish kills, researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said.


Studies show K. veneficum emits a poison called karlotoxin that immobilizes its prey -- a single-celled algae called cryptophyte, the researchers wrote this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

K. veneficum blooms spread the toxin, which damage the gills of fish.

The frequency of the algae blooms could be reduced by limiting the nutrient load that feed's K. veneficum's prey and by bringing back the Eastern oyster, which once was the bay's most prolific microbe filter, said Allen Place of Maryland's Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology.

K. veneficum is a problem in estuaries worldwide and millions of dollars are spent annually trying to control it.

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