The invasive sea slug Pleurobranchaea maculata is a vector of two potent neurotoxins in coasts of Argentina
Toxic exotic organisms can have profound effect as new vectors of keystone compounds in non-native areas. In recent years the invasive sea slug Pleurobranchaea maculata has been reported as thriving along the oriental coasts of South America. The same species had been previously found to contain high levels of tetrodotoxins (TTXs) in its native range. With the aim of determining toxin contents for the introduced individuals we performed mouse bioassays (MBA) and liquid chromatography tandem–mass spectrometry analyses (LC–MS/MS) in three distant populations (− 38°02′11″, − 57°31′28″; − 40°29′59″, − 60°14′09″; − 42°44′15″, − 65°01′40″) and followed the temporal variation in toxin contents in one of them, from June 2014 to January 2015. Relative low levels of TTXs were detected jointly with high levels of PSTs. This is the first identification of TTXs in the temperate coasts of the southwestern Atlantic and the first detection of PSTs in a pleurobranch, in both adults and eggs. Concentrations of PSTs and TTXs varied widely among individuals and populations, and through time. Our results provide new hints on the origin and acquisition mechanisms of these toxins in P. maculata and highlight the risk posed by the introduction of this new vector of potent neurotoxins for seafood safety and marine communities in the invaded area.
We want to acknowledge Carolina Kelly and Sonia Ortega from SENASA’s Mar del Plata Laboratory, for their help to perform mouse bioassays. We would like to thank Dr. Alejandro Bortolus (GEAC-IPEEC-CONICET) for encouraging us to undertake this study and for his contribution to the first discussions. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments and criticism contributed significantly to improve this manuscript.
NF has performed the field sampling, designed the study, analyzed the data and written a first draft. AG performed the mouse bioassays. ES provided the individuals from Puerto Madryn. MDR and AT performed the LC–MS/MS analyses. AG, ES, SO, MDR and AT contributed to the writing of the manuscript.
Field work was supported by ANPCyT-PICT 2016 # 1083, PIP CONICET 508 granted to ES. Toxin identification and quantifications were funded with Internal Cefas Seedcorn Funding (contract code DP345).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All bioassays in this study have been conducted following the regulation 617/2002 for biological tests and animal facilities of the National Service of Agri-Food Health and Quality of Argentina (SENASA), and in fulfillment of the ISO/IEC 17,025 norm, that conforms to the Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament, the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and the Code of Ethics of the World Medical Association (Declaration of Helsinki) for animal experiments.
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