LOS ANGELES, Sept. 30 (UPI) — University of Southern California researchers say they’ve developed a new algae monitoring method that could help predict toxic phenomena known as red tides.
Prediction is important as toxic algal blooms that can increase the amount of harmful toxins in the shellfish that California residents consume are increasing in frequency and severity in the state, a university release said Friday.
“We have what we fear is a hot spot here for some types of toxic algal blooms,” biological sciences professor David Caron said.
Caron and his colleagues have developed a quantitative assay that can measure the quantity of specific types of algae in coastal water samples.
“Just like other species, microscopic species conduct warfare — chemical warfare,” Caron said.
Toxins help algae keep from being eaten by other, similar organisms, but algae are also food for clams, mussels, anchovies and sardines.
“That’s when we get into trouble, when it gets into something we would eat,” Caron said.
In humans, the ingestion of some toxins can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.
Caron said he hopes his new assay will help scientists not only spot the blooms but monitor the changes in environmental conditions that can create them.