BIOL 1F25 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Saxitoxin, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, Tide Pool
Course CodeBIOL 1F25
ProfessorGaynor E Spencer
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Oct 30th 2015
oTTX is also found in: California newts, gastropod molluscs, skin of Atelopid
frogs, some species of eastern salamander and eggs of horseshoe crabs
oBlue-ringed octopus : ~ size of a golf ball - lives in tide pools in the Pacific Ocean
from Japan to Australia.
oConsidered one of the most poisonous animals in the world. Also contains TTX
oBlue-rings only appear when the animal is about to attack!
Research article: “How does the blue-ringed octopus (H. lunulata) flash its blue
rings?” Journal of Experimental Biology 215:p3752. Mathger et al (2012).
oBlue iridescent rings result from iridophores - cells that contain plates that act as
oHidden by folds of skin - can be exposed as quickly as 0.3 sec
oSurrounded by chromatophores (dark brown) that can enhance contrast of rings.
oSaxitoxin (STX) : also acts on voltage-gated sodium (Na) channels
oProduced by marine dinoflagellates (plankton).
oSome are luminous and contribute to the twinkling or flashing effects seen in sea
at night (especially tropics).
oSTX can be accumulated and concentrated in shellfish (eg. Alaskan butter clam,
mussels, oysters). A single clam (cooked or uncooked) can prove fatal.
o“Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a potentially fatal syndrome associated
with consumption of shellfish that have accumulated saxitoxin (STX). “
oSymptoms: numbness, tingling, uncoordinated movements, nausea, incoherant
speech: (can be mistaken for drunkenness)!
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