Monday Archives: Undescribed Soft Coral Native to Miami Produces High Quantities of Deadly Organic Compound Palytoxin

Undescribed fluorescent Palythoa species photographed along the shoreline of PortMiami. We are happy to announce the publication of a scientific paper analyzing the presence and potency of palytoxin (PLTX) in Palythoa spp. and Zoanthus spp. Zoantharians conducted by the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography and Coral Biome in Marseilles, France. PLTX is one of the most potent toxins known on the planet. It is an extremely large and complex organic compound that has been described by biochemists as the ‘Mt. Everest of organic synthesis’. An organism that naturally produces large amounts of PLTX is of great importance for research scientists to better understand its pharmacology. PLTX has been found to have toxic effects on head and neck tumors, and therefore warrants further pharmaceutical investigation. Initially, this compound was blue-prospected in Hawaii where native Hawaiian people used the the mucous of Palythoa found in a very specific (and taboo) tide pool (known as limu-make-o-Hana, the ‘seaweed of death of Hana’) to coat their spear points before battle. So taboo was this tide pool for outsiders, that when scientists sampled the Palythoa in 1961, they found their lab burned to the ground on the same day. A reminder to scientists to respect native wisdom, culture, and practices when performing science on other cultures’ land! In this paper we found that an undescribed species (Palythoa aff. clavata) we sampled from PortMiami in 2012 was found to have five times the concentration of the notorious Hawaiian species Palythoa toxica. The experiment also tried to determine whether PLTX was produced by symbiotic microbial symbionts / zooxanthellae, or by the organism itself. Highest concentrations of PLTX were found within the tissue itself, and isolated cultures of zooxanthellae from these polyps failed to produce PLTX in the laboratory. This suggests, but does not confirm, that the Palythoa polyps themselves are producing this toxin. While the mechanism of its biosynthesis remains unknown, it highlights how Miami’s urban marine environs hold important scientific discoveries still waiting to be uncovered. Read the paper – ‘Symbiodiniaceae diversity and characterization of palytoxin in various zoantharians (Anthozoa, Hexacorallia)’ – below: Palythoa-Paper-Sawelew-et-al-2022 Tags: Coral Morphologic, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, Palythoa, Palytoxin, Zoanthus This entry was posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2022 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Miami, Natural History, Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

DNA to ID public aquarium corals

In the past 30 years, marine heatwaves are estimated to have increased by more than 50%. Ocean temperatures are predicted to increase by 1 – 4° C by 2100. These changes cause the loss of marine habitats and species and change the structure of...

‘Coral City Camera’ @ Design Miami 2019

For Design Miami 2019/, we debuted a preview of the ‘Coral City Camera’, a 360° live stream underwater camera located at our collaborative research site with NOAA/ University of Miami’s ACCRETE Lab. The CCC aims to supplement our urban coral research with real-time scientific data and offer a source of natural wonderment to the public, with the live stream officially going live in February 2020. The output of the camera will be broadcast into public schools across Florida through a partnership with the Everglades Foundation. This initiative will reach over 100,000 students, teaching observers to work as citizen scientists with a curriculum that integrates the CCC live stream across 21 school districts. The implementation and associated outreach of the ‘Coral City Camera’ are made possible with the support of Bas Fisher Invitational & the Bridge Initiative under National Endowment for the Arts & Knight Foundation grants. Tags: Coral City Camera, Coral Morphologic, Design Miami, Miami This entry was posted on Saturday, December 7th, 2019 at 2:07 pm and is filed under Art, Installation, Miami, Natural History, Research, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

How to be a Marine Biologist

What is marine biology? Marine biology by definition is the scientific study of marine organisms. However, in practice this encompasses a wide variety of jobs and career pathways. There are two responses I typically receive when I tell people that I am a marine...