A bloom of Lyngbya majuscula in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia: An important feeding ground for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
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Lyngbya majuscula, a toxic cyanobacterium, was observed blooming during June-July (winter) 2002 in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia, an important feeding area for a large population of green turtles (Chelonia mydas). The bloom was mapped and extensive mats of L. majuscula were observed overgrowing seagrass beds along at least 18 km of coast, and covering a surface area of more than 11 km2. Higher than average rainfall preceded the bloom and high water temperatures in the preceding summer may have contributed to the bloom. In bloom samples, lyngbyatoxin A (LA) was found to be present in low concentration (26 姠kg-1(dry weight)), but debromoaplysiatoxin (DAT) was not detected. The diet of 46 green turtles was assessed during the bloom and L. majuscula was found in 51% of the samples, however, overall it contributed only 2% of the animals' diets. L. majuscula contribution to turtle diet was found to increase as the availability of the cyanobacterium increased. The bloom appeared to have no immediate impact on turtle body condition, however, the presence of a greater proportion of damaged seagrass leaves in diet in conjunction with decreases in plasma concentrations of sodium and glucose could suggest that the turtles may have been exposed to a substandard diet as a result of the bloom. This is the first confirmed report of L. majuscula blooming in winter in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia and demonstrates that turtles consume the toxic cyanobacterium in the wild, and that they are potentially exposed to tumour promoting compounds produced by this organism.