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Published July 2015 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Alexandrium and Scrippsiella cyst viability and cytoplasmic fullness in a 60-cm sediment core from Sequim Bay, WA


Many marine protists produce a benthic resting stage during their life history. This non-motile cyst stage can either germinate near the sediment surface to provide the inoculum for subsequent blooms or, be buried by sediment deposits over time and entrained into the sedimentary record. Buried cysts can be resuspended into the water column by mixing events (e.g., storms) or other disturbances (e.g., dredging). It is not clear how long cysts can survive while buried in the sediments and still be capable of germinating given favorable conditions. Here, the germination success of cysts produced by the potentially toxic dinoflagellate genus Alexandrium and the non-toxic dinoflagellate genus Scrippsiella is reported from a 60-cm sediment core collected in Sequim Bay, WA, in December 2011. Cysts of Alexandrium spp. and Scrippsiella spp. were isolated from 2-cm sections of the core, placed in individual wells of a 96-well plate with growth medium, imaged, incubated at favorable conditions and monitored for germination. An image analysis program, DinoCyst, was used to quantitatively measure the amount of granular storage products, presumed energy stores, inside the cytoplasm to test the hypothesis that older cysts located deeper in the sediment core will have fewer energy stores available and will be less likely to germinate. An index of the area of the cytoplasm occupied with granular storage products relative to cyst size, termed 'cytoplasmic fullness', and age, based on ^(210)Pb dating of surrounding sediments, was compared with germination success or failure. This research indicates that cysts of Alexandrium spp. and Scrippsiella spp. can remain viable in sediments for 60 years or longer, show little visual evidence of cytoplasmic deterioration over this timescale (as measured by cytoplasmic fullness), and that germination success is statistically similar for cysts isolated from 0–60 cm deep in the sediment core. These results suggest that a cyst's cytoplasmic fullness is not indicative of viability and that cysts located as deep as 60 cm in the sediments are as likely to germinate as surface cysts given favorable conditions.

Additional Information

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Received 22 September 2014; Received in revised form 15 May 2015; Accepted 15 May 2015; Available online 14 June 2015. This research was funded by the NSF GK-12 OASIS program, University of Washington Pacific Northwest Center for Human Health and Oceans Studies, University of Washington Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) on Ocean Change and had research support from the National Park Service George Melendez Wright Climate Change Fellowship. We are grateful for the technical assistance from Garfield High School (Seattle, WA) students L. Aasen, A. Maloney-Bertelli, K. Vesteinsson, and H. Xie used to develop the DinoCyst program. Thanks to C. Nittrouer, R. Hale, K. Boldt and the crew of the R/V Barnes for help obtaining and processing the sediment core. [SS]

Additional details

August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023