Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 13–23 | Cite as

Alexandrium catenella (Dinophyceae), a toxic ribotype expanding in the NW Mediterranean Sea

  • A. PennaEmail author
  • E. Garcés
  • M. Vila
  • M. G. Giacobbe
  • S. Fraga
  • A. Lugliè
  • I. Bravo
  • E. Bertozzini
  • C. Vernesi
Research Article


The presence of the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella in the north western (NW) Mediterranean Sea has been known since 1983. From this date on, the species has spread along the Spanish and Italian coastlines. Information concerning A. catenella isolates in the NW Mediterranean Sea was gained through phylogenetic studies. Twenty established toxic cultures of A. catenella taken from various NW Mediterranean Sea locations were analysed by nucleotide sequencing of the 5.8S rDNA and internal transcribed spacer regions. These rDNA ribosomal markers resulted useful in delineating the phylogenetic position of this species in the genus Alexandrium as well as in determining relationships between A. catenella isolates from different geographic areas. The phylogenetic position of the Mediterranean A. catenella ribotype, when compared to the “Alexandrium tamarense/catenella/fundyense species complex”, fits this species complex well. All the Mediterranean A.catenella isolates were constituted by only one genetic ribotype. By comparing the isolate sequences with those of other geographic areas, it revealed that the Mediterranean A. catenella ribotype was closely related to the A. catenella from Japan, Western Pacific Ocean. It was also evident that in temperate Japanese waters, a genetic variability was detected within A. catenella isolates; in fact, all strains resulted divergent showing as many as 15 mutational steps. The possibility that A. catenella has been recently introduced into the Mediterranean basin from temperate Asian areas is discussed.


Ballast Water Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Japanese Isolate North Western Isolate Sequence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by the EU-FP5 Strategy Project EVK3-CT- 00046-2001 and CCVIEO. Special thanks to Dr. Mercedes Masò, Prof. Mauro Magnani and Dr. Francesca Andreoni for technical assistance in sequence analyses and to José M. Franco and CRM (Centro Ricerche Marine, Cesenatico, Italy) for providing toxin information and also to Kostantinos Koukaras for supplying a culture strain.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Penna
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Garcés
    • 2
  • M. Vila
    • 2
  • M. G. Giacobbe
    • 3
  • S. Fraga
    • 4
  • A. Lugliè
    • 5
  • I. Bravo
    • 4
  • E. Bertozzini
    • 1
  • C. Vernesi
    • 6
  1. 1.Centro Biologia AmbientaleUniversity of UrbinoPesaroItaly
  2. 2.Institut de Ciències del MarBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino CostieroCNRMessinaItaly
  4. 4.Instituto Español de OceanografíaVigoSpain
  5. 5.Dip. Botanica ed Ecologia VegetaleUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  6. 6.Centro di Ecologia AlpinaViote del Monte BondoneTrentoItaly

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