Marine Biology

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 179-189

First online:

Importance of life cycle events in the population dynamics of Gonyaulax tamarensis

  • D. M. AndersonAffiliated withBiology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • , S. W. ChisholmAffiliated withRalph M. Parsons Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • , C. J. WatrasAffiliated withRalph M. Parsons Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Life cycle changes that allow populations of the toxic dinoflagellate Gonyaulax tamarensis Lebour to inhabit the benthos and the plankton alternately are important factors regulationg the initiation and decline of blooms in restricted embavments. When the dynamics of these estuarine populations were monitored during “bloom” and “non bloom” years, it was shown that: (1) each year, germination of benthie cysts inoculated the overlying waters during the vernal warming period, but a large residual population remained in the sediments throughout the blooms; (2) the resulting planktonic population began growth under suboptimal temperature conditions; (3) the populations developed from this inoculum through asexual reproduction until sexuality (and cyst formation) were induced; (4) encystment was not linked to any obvious environmental cue and occurred under apparently optimal conditions; and (5) an increase in the number of non-mitotic swimming cells (planozygotes, the precursors to dormant cysts) accompanied the rapid decline of the planktonic population. Thus encystment, in combination with hypothesized losses due to advection and grazing, contributed substantiatly to the decline of the vegetative cell population. We conclude that the encystment/excystment cycle temporally restricts the occurrence of the vegetative population and may not be optimized for rapid or sustained vegetative growth and bloom formation in shallow embayments. The factors that distinguish “bloom” from “non-bloom” years thus appear to be operating on the growth of the planktonic population.