Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Gonyaulax Human Relevance

Gonyaulax causes massive industrial damage. Gonyaulax is one of the dinoflagellates responsible for the advent of red tides. During red tides, many fishes, whales, manatees, and shorebirds have died in massive numbers because of the anoxic conditions produced by dinoflagellate blooms. The toxin of Gonyaulax can also directly poison marine animals who are at the top of the food pyramid. Gonyaulax is a primary producer in the food web.

Dinoflagellates may be small, but they have power in numbers! They are one of the chief constituents of the marine planktonic community, which is responsible for the majority of photosynthetic carbon fixation in the ocean. These ubiquitous, chorophyll-bearing protists thus comprise the base of the food web. As primary producers they support all major marine organisms, including those that are exploited for human consumption.

Gonyaulax cysts may indicate petroleum reserves. Dinoflagellates have long been pervasive in ocean life. Due to such an illustrious history, they have been useful to the fossil fuel industry. Dead plankton fallen to the sea floor has been transformed into petroleum compounds over the course of millions of years, due to the pressure of increasing layers of sediment. Thus dinoflagellate fossilized cysts are thought to indicate locations of petroleum reserves.

Gonyaulax poisons have medical applications. Paradoxically, Gonyaulax toxins can be beneficial. Research is currently being conducted regarding the use of chemically modified saxitoxin in the treatment of nerve and heart disorders. In addition, saxitoxin may have future importance as a local anesthetic. Entertainment value of bioluminescence! Gonyaulax gives us the gift of bioluminescence. Their night-time light displays have enchanted seafarers around the world since the beginning of time.

| Index | Bioluminescence | Toxicity | Morphology |

| Taxonomy | Human Relevance | Ecology | Chemistry |

© 1999  Allison Arnold and Monica Draghici.     All rights reserved.

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009