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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Wanted, Dead or Alive: Killer Algae
25 April 2000 3:00 pm
What may look from the air like a blazing oil slick can turn out to be a kilometers-long carpet of marine algae, their luminous bodies setting the ocean aglow. These outbursts of algal exuberance sometimes have a dark side: Algal toxins have been blamed for everything from fish kills in North Carolina to a manatee massacre in Florida to the 1987 deaths of four Canadians who consumed tainted mussels.
Anyone intrigued by toxic algal blooms--more commonly called red tides, although they're neither tide-driven nor always red--can turn to the eclectic Harmful Algae Page, started 4 years ago by marine ecologist Donald Anderson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. To get a feel for what scientists are up against, start with the photos, a gallery of rogues that poison their enemies--such as the dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense--or stab them to death--including a Chaetoceros species that plunges its serrated spines into the gills of fish.
A section on human illnesses describes the five main kinds of algal seafood poisoning, which causes symptoms such as diarrhea and numbness. Illuminating the scope of the problem, a set of maps shows past algal blooms in U.S. coastal waters, and a short essay delves into why the number of blooms seems to be rising--better surveillance and nutrient-laden pollution are suspected. Researchers can search a directory of algal specialists, browse documents that spell out state, federal, and international research and control efforts, and access references and outside links.