Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB) are a frequent phenomenon in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, as in other parts of the world. The morphology and physiology of these microalgae are important because HAB species have adaptive characteristics. The production of high concentrations of paralytic toxins by Ceratium dinoflagellates has only been documented at the experimental level. However, this genus has been associated with the mortality of aquatic organisms, including oyster and shrimp larva, and fish, and with decreased water quality. Recently, fishermen reported massive mortality of encaged fish near Tortuga Island (Gulf of Nicoya). Samples were taken from an algal bloom that had produced an orange coloration and had a strong foul-smelling odor. Ultrastructural details were examined with scanning electron microscopy. The dinoflagellates Ceratium dens, C. furca and C. fusus were found in samples taken at the surface. The cell count revealed four million cells of this genus per liter. The morphological variability of these species is high; therefore electron microscopy is an useful tool in the ultrastructural study of these organisms. This is the first time that three Ceratium species are reported concurrently producing harmful blooms in Costa Rica.
Keywords: Harmful algae blooms, Ceratium, ultrastructure, electron microscopy