Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Gabriel A. Vargo, Ph.D.


Red tide, Seabirds, Karenia brevis, Thread herring, Sardines, Minnows


Harmful algal blooms (HABs) of the brevetoxin-producing dinoflagellate Karenia brevis occur periodically along the central west coast of Florida. Mass mortalities of marine birds have long been associated with these blooms, yet there is little data documenting the accumulation of brevetoxins in the tissues of birds and their prey items. An intense HAB event impacted the region from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor during most of 2005. More than one hundred marine birds, representing twenty three species, were collected during this bloom. All birds sampled were found dead or had died within 24 hours of admittance to local wildlife rehabilitation centers. In order to determine if fish were vectors for brevetoxin ingestion, the stomach contents of all birds were examined and any recovered fish were identified to the extent possible.

The gastrointestinal tissues and contents from all avian samples were analyzed for brevetoxin levels, with results ranging from

Shorebirds and gulls may also be exposed to brevetoxins via scavenging of red tide-killed fish deposited on beaches during blooms. Samples from scavenged fish were found to have brevetoxin levels ranging from 31 to 95,753 ng PbTx per gram tissue.