Crustaceans Drunk on Toxic Algae

A copepod. Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.org

A copepod. Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia.org

     Minuscule crustaceans called copepods seem to become intoxicated after consuming the toxic algae Alexandrium fundyense, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

     While researchers initially expected the copepods to swim at a slower pace after consuming the algae, they found that the copepods increased their speed and had more predictable swimming paths (increasing their risk of predation by 25 to 56 percent).

     "First, they have a higher probability of encountering predators simply because they are covering more 'new ground;" lead author Rachel Lasely-Rasher told Discovery News.

     A critical link within the aquatic food web, increased predation of copepods could lead to increased algae (as they consume algae themselves, keeping levels balanced) and could also cause toxins to bioaccumulate in animals that feed upon them.

     The full article is available here or through the link below.