Red tides

Photo by alex1derr via Flickr

Today NPR’s All Things Considered ran this piece that focused on Seattle-based scientists who are working in Puget Sound to try to predict the appearance of red tides.

Neither communist plot nor NCAA Division I athletic program, a red tide is an algal bloom that releases neurotoxins dangerous to sea life that ingest the algae as well as animals (human and otherwise) higher up the food chain. Shellfish in particular can pass on these neurotoxins to human diners with decidedly unpleasant consequences. As such, state officials close fisheries when affected by these blooms, with the predictable economic ripple effects for those who harvest, prepare, and serve shellfish.

Red tides aren’t limited to the Pacific Northwest by any means, with recent outbreaks on the U.S. East, gulf, and southern California coasts, along with other coastal areas of the world.

For a bit more of the biology and chemistry of the organisms that make up red tides, check out this piece from Jennifer Frazer’s “The Artful Amoeba” blog at Scientific American.

You can also view the short video below, which features work on brevetoxins (the red-tide neurotoxins) from Michael Crimmins of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.



  1. zazzman

    I know this is a very serious topic, but I could not help laughing my ass off during the video. When they start describing the side effects of neurotoxic shellfish poising and show they guy with his leg hooked in the ladder rung, I became afflicted with schadenfreude. Yes, I know, I’m worse than a 10-year-old.

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