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But when supplied with excess nutrients, they can multiply uncontrollably, becoming an unwanted mass commonly called a “red tide” that smothers nearby .
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Health and Safety Issues Concerning Red Tide

Neither plant nor animal, dinoflagellates are unicellular protists; most exhibit the following characteristics:. Red tides are conditions when a dinoflagellate population increases to such huge numbers that it discolors the water. For dinoflagellate red tides, the water is discolored red or brown due to as high as 20 million cells per liter. These red tides are composed primarily of one species of dinoflagellate that has been rapidly growing and accumulating.

Some red tides are luminescent; most in southern California create dramatic nighttime displays of bioluminescence in the wakes breaking on the beach. A synopsis of the putative mechanisms responsible for these red tides is kindly provided by Prof. Rapid reproduction ensues by cell division; these are unicellular organisms and crowds out everything else, by taking away the light the water was brown!

Some but not all red tides are toxic. In toxic red tides, the dinoflagellates produce a chemical that acts as a neurotoxin in other animals. When the dinoflagellates are ingested by shellfish, for example, the chemicals accumulate in the shellfish tissue in high enough levels to cause serious neurological affects in birds, animals, or people which ingest the shellfish.

There are several types of neurotoxins produced by dinoflagellates. These chemicals may affect nerve action by interfering with the movement of ions across cell membranes, thus affecting muscle activity.

Red Tide | Definition of Red Tide by Merriam-Webster

Eating contaminated shellfish causes paralytic shellfish poisoning PSP. The worst cases of PSP result in respiratory failure and death within 12 hours. Brevetoxin is unique in that it becomes aerosolized when the dinoflagellates end up in the surf zone and then blows onto the beach causing respiratory irritation in humans. Ciguatera is another form of dinoflagellate toxicity in tropical areas caused by eating fish contaminated by toxins of the dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus.

Neither plant nor animal, dinoflagellates are unicellular protists; most exhibit the following characteristics: They are planktonic. Ninety percent of all dinoflagellates are marine plankton. Others are benthic, symbiotic, or parasitic. They are small. Although many of them are microscopic and range from 15 to 40 microns in size, the largest,Noctiluca, may be as large as 2 mm in diameter!

They are motile. Dinoflagellates swim by means of two flagella, movable protein and microtubule strands that propel the cell through the water. The longitudinal flagellum extends out from the sulcal groove of the hypotheca posterior part of cell ; when it whips back and forth it propels the cell forward. Red tide is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the microscopic algae Karenia brevis formerly Gymnodinium breve. This organism produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cannot breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on Gulf beaches.

When red tide algae reproduce in dense concentrations or "blooms," they are visible as discolored patches of ocean water, often reddish in color. What causes red tide? Red tide is a natural phenomenon not caused by human beings.

When temperature, salinity, and nutrients reach certain levels, a massive increase in Karenia brevis algae occurs. No one knows the exact combination of factors that causes red tide, but some experts believe high temperatures combined with a lack of wind and rainfall is usually at the root of red tide blooms. There are no known ways that humans can control it, but many scientists around the world are studying red tide at present.

It's important to remember that red tide has happened before and the Texas marine environment has always recovered. How, when and where do red tide blooms start? Texas red tides have occurred from August through February. They typically begin in the Gulf of Mexico.

Currents and winds then transport blooms toward shore. The blooms mainly come up along Gulf beaches, and less frequently into bays and estuaries. Where is the red tide on the Texas coast right now?

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It's almost impossible to say exactly where the red tide is at any given moment, because blooms constantly expand and contract and move around in response to winds and tides. It's important to realize that red tides are typically isolated patches that don't blanket every stretch of beach.

What is a red tide?

They often concentrate around wind- or tide-protected areas like man-made jetties. How can I get the latest information on the current red tide? Texas Parks and Wildlife has set up a menu item on its main toll-free information line to provide regularly updated reports on the current red tide event.