Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Gabriel Vargo, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jerome Naar, Ph.D.


Karenia brevis, harmful algal blooms, HABs, red tide, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning


Harmful algal blooms (HABs, or "red tides") of the brevetoxin-producing dinoflagellate Karenia brevis occur periodically along Florida's Gulf coast. Mass mortalities of marine birds have long been associated with these blooms, yet there are few data documenting the accumulation of brevetoxins (PbTx) in the tissues of birds.

Post-mortem evaluations were performed on 185 birds representing 22 species collected from October 2001 through May 2006 during red tide and non-red tide events to quantify their body burdens of brevetoxins. A variety of tissues and organs were selected for brevetoxin analysis including blood, brain, heart, fat, stomach or gut contents, intestinal contents or digestive tract, muscle, lung, liver or viscera, kidney, gonads, gallbladder and spleen. Brevetoxin levels in avian tissues ranged from K. brevis which may amass in various tissues of the body. As a consequence, the birds may exhibit acute brevetoxicosis during red tide events or show chronic accumulation effects during non-red tide events.