Toxic Algae Grow by 'enslavement'

JERUSALEM, Aug. 12 (UPI) — Algae blooms in freshwater bodies occur when toxic blue-green algae out-competes other organisms using what one scientist says is an “enslavement” strategy.

The increasing occurrence of toxic cyanobacterial blooms in freshwater bodies is a matter of growing international concern as they can be detrimental to water quality and can in extreme cases cause death in humans and animals, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem release said Thursday.


A university researcher studying the conditions promoting these toxic blooms and other toxin formations may have discovered how they happen.

Yehonatan Bar-Yosef, a Ph.D. student at the university, has suggested a novel mechanism to explain the ability of toxic algae called Aphanizomenon to form massive toxic blooms by overcoming competition from other microorganisms in the water.

Aphanizomenon is known to produce the toxin cylindrospermopsin, which can interfere with the response of other microorganisms in the ecosystem to phosphate, an essential nutrient for growth.

This means other organism die off even in the presence of ample phosphate in the water, Bar-Yosef says.

Researchers have used the term “enslavement” to describe this novel interspecies interaction.

The research provides an explanation for the significant rise in massive cyanobacterial bloom events worldwide during the last decade despite attempts of water management authorities to reduce the inflow of nutrients, especially phosphate, from agricultural watersheds, researchers say.

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Categorized | Microorganisms, Other
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