The mass occurrence of toxic cyanobacteria is a recurrent phenomenon in the Baltic Sea. Grazers may obtain toxins either through ingestion or by direct exposure to dissolved toxins. Despite this, there is little knowledge about the accumulation of cyanobacterial toxins in planktonic organisms present during these blooms. Toxin analyses of tissue samples are complicated to carry out and, because of the small size of microscopic planktonic organisms, often difficult to execute. Therefore, we wanted to use a precise and sensitive method to study toxin uptake and accumulation in zooplankton. We used chemically tritiated nodularin, 3H-dihydronodularin, to study the uptake of dissolved nodularin, a cyanobacterial hepatotoxin produced by Nodularia spumigena. Cultures of the calanoid copepods Acartia tonsa and Eurytemora affinis, and an oligotrich ciliate Strombidium sulcatum were exposed to 3H-dihydronodularin in filtered seawater, using naturally occurring concentrations of dissolved nodularin (5 μg L-1). All three species took up measurable amounts of radiolabeled nodularin. After 48 h we detected 0.37 ± 0.22 μg toxin g C-1 (mean ± sd) in A. tonsa and 0.60 ± 0.15 μg toxin g C-1 in E. affinis, whereas 1.55 ± 0.50 μg toxin g C-1 was detected in S. sulcatum after 24 h. The minimum bioconcentration factor (BCF) of 3H-dihydronodularin was 12 for A. tonsa and 18 for E. affinis. For S. sulcatum our results indicate a maximum BCF of 22. However, because the uptake studies for this species were done in the presence of bacteria, possible particulate transfer cannot be excluded. Nevertheless, our results indicate that dissolved nodularin can be taken up by planktonic organisms. Therefore, the vectorial transport of dissolved toxins to higher trophic levels seems possible, even if some planktonic grazers would avoid feeding on toxic cyanobacteria filaments.
- Baltic Sea