Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants

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Wednesday December 14, 2022, 4pm CET


Antonella Penna1*

Different aspects on the dinoflagellate molecular ecology: a focus on the Mediterranean Sea

1 Department of Biomolecular Sciences, University of Urbino, Campus Enrico Mattei, Urbino, Italy


The huge and complex biodiversity of dinoflagellates stimulated interesting ecological and molecular studies mainly aimed at harmful species worldwide. Their toxic blooms cause serious impacts to human health, marine environment, and economic maritime activities at many coastal sites. Innovative approaches and methods not only for rapid and accurate detection and count of HAB species, but also for species-specific identification and reliable quantification of abundance are in constant demand; further, the ultimate goal includes the development of early warning and forecasting systems for HABs.
In the Mediterranean Sea, in the last decades, a number of dinoflagellate species caused toxic blooms with impacts on the ecosystem functioning and human health.
Molecular and genetic population studies proved the complexity of some species (i.e., Alexandrium or Ostreopsis genera) and allowed to gain new insights into phytoplankton assemblage structure in the Mediterranean Sea. Taxon-specific primers designed on rDNA ribosomal and saxitoxin genes allowed to develop and apply new identification and counting qPCR-based assays, which proved to be more rapid, sensitive and specific when applied in various substrates, such as the water column, sediments and aerosol.
In the recent aquaculture system investigated for the PSP toxin producing species, the sxtA1 gene qPCR assay can support the analytical methods for STX determination in seawater and shellfish especially at early warning stage of toxic blooms. Further, predictive models can play an important role in managing and forecasting HABs. Models based on Machine Learning techniques and principally those based on Random Forests are very promising both at regional and at wider scale.
Very recently, plastic and microplastic debris were investigated negatively impacting the ecological functioning of oceans. The potential risk of harmful microalgae dispersal associated with plastic pollution was illustrated as well as for chemical compounds to transfer through the trophic chain with implications for human health and marine ecosystem in the Mediterranean Sea.