Andy Dutra

Toxic and Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates:  Molecular and Ecological Importance

Using a variety of microscopy, sampling and cluturing techniques, Andy has been able to isolate a potentiallly toxic algal species (Prorocentrum micans).  This dinoflagellate is known to be a species that causes many red tide related problems on the coast of Maine and many neighboring states.  High levels of toxins enter local shellfish stocks, leading to sickness and disease in humans who consume these infected organisms.  By using epifluorescense microscopy and calcofluor white fluorescent dye, Andy has already learned that P. micans forms a vegetative cyst, which was previously unknown in this dinoflagellate species.  The discovery of a vegetative cyst life stage in a potentially toxic algal species ecologically because these cysts are able to withstand adverse environmental conditions.  These cysts often accumulate in large numbers on the ocean floor, and fully motile cells emerge when environmental conditions become favorable.  This accumulation of cysts has often been attributed to bloom events in warm summer months.  Further studies on this species will include investigations of the cell cycle (i.e. nuclear activity, etc.), circadian rhythms, toxin identification/isolation, and a general understanding of this fascinating dinoflagellate.  Other dinoflagellate species that Andy is  attending to culture and study include Ceratium tripos, and C. fusus.

For more information about the project, you may email Andy at