Journal of Oceanography and Marine Research

Journal of Oceanography and Marine Research
Open Access

ISSN: 2572-3103

Research Article - (2019)Volume 7, Issue 1

Ecology of the Epiphytic Potentially Harmful Dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata (Fukuyo) from Coastal Waters off Alexandria Egypt

Shimaa Hosny* and Wagdy Labib
*Correspondence: Shimaa Hosny, Taxonomy & Biodiversity of Aquatic Biota Lab, Marine Environment Division, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Alexandria, Egypt, Email:

Author info »


Despite macroalgae epiphytes play an important role in algal habitats, available information from Alexandria coastal waters is scarce. To evaluate the role of environmental factors on the inventory of the ephyphytic Ostreopsis c.f ovata cells, its abundance on the thalli of 14 different macroalgae collected from two sites at Abou Qir rocky area was done on the basis of sampling carried out for one year. The annual maximum Ostreopsis cf. ovata cell abundance was observed in May (late-spring), reaching the maximum on the green macroalgae Ulva linza in July (mid- summer). Analysis of variance showed significant difference of abundance between seasons and hosts. Water temperature and NO2, NO3 and PO4 seem the major factor affecting on abundance of Ostreopsis c.f ovata. The present study documented the significant importance of Ulva sp. as the suitable host of O. ovata in Alexandria waters, in contrasting with others in the Mediterranean Sea that show O. ovata most often found on Phaeophyta and Rhodophyta.


Ostreopsis sp.; Epiphytic; Macroalgae; Harmful algae


Macroalgae provide a suitable substrate for microalgae found as epiphytes, which often provide support for higher trophic levels and might have important implications for food web dynamics [1,2]. Other ecological part played by epiphytes in ecosystem as a protection layer for seagrasses from excessive UV radiance was discussed [3]. However, as epiphyte load increases, it can negatively affect seagrasses in different ways [4].

Species of the dinoflagellate genus Ostreopsis Schmidt are unicellular algae preferentially epiphytic/epibenthic and grow in shallow waters of tropical and subtropical areas on abiotic and biotic substrates [5,6]. But cells may detach from the substrate and are found planktonic in the water column [6,7]. However, in the last few decades an increasing number of reports have been documented for a worldwide geographical expansion, and intensive bloom outbreaks of O. ovata and O. siamensis in warm and cold temperate areas [8,7]. Ostreopsis sp. has been expanding geographically in recent decades, especially in temperate regions, with 67% of studies focused on these regions [9]. There are currently eleven described species of Ostreopsis, four of which are known to be toxic; O. cf. ovata, O. siamensis, O. mascarenensis, and O. lenticularis to which scientists, the aquaculture industry, and government are keenly attentive [10,11]. The toxicity is associated with the presence of palytoxin and its derivatives [12].

Ostreopsis cf. ovata (Fukuyo) populations typically proliferate in rocky coasts, forming rusty-brown coloured mucilaginous film [6]. Widespread occurrence of the toxic benthic dinoflagellates genus Ostreopsis Schmidt has increased during the last decades [5]. It is recently found in the Mediterranean Sea where the first known bloom recorded in 1998 along the Tuscany coasts [13].

The presence of O. ovata in coastal waters may pose a threat to coastal food web and fishery [14]. In the Mediterranean Sea, neurotoxic effects due to toxin accumulation in food web have not yet been reported and Ostreopsis species are implicated thus far only in respiratory affections and skin or eyes irritations, causing health problems as dyspnea, fever, conjunctivitis and dermatitis for people near the shore exposed to marine aerosols during bloom events [15]. High levels of ovatoxins were recorded in natural samples; episodes of death of both benthic invertebrates (limpets, sea urchins and mussels) and macroalgae were commonly observed during O. ovata blooms.

A review of the existing literatures over the last three decades on harmful red tide blooms in Alexandria coastal waters shows a great attention towards planktonic microalgal bloom forming species while, there is a paucity of information in the literature on the ecology of attached potentially harmful epiphytic dinoflagellates in relation to biotic and abiotic regulating factors [7,16]. Ismael and Halim reported epiphytic Ostreopsis cf. ovata east of Alexandria [17]. Such studies are of increasing importance in the years ahead and that is what this study sets out to address. This in situ study investigates the interactions of habitat and ecosystem characteristics in the facilitation/regulation of the abundance of the epiphytic dinoflagellate O. ovata living attached to diverse macroalgal species in Alexandria waters, considering multiple environmental stressors assumed to regulate or influence its growth on biotic substrates. The study might provide additional information for better understanding the ecology of the Ostreopsis population dynamics in order to depict some considerations on its occurrence trend in this area and provide a basis for effective bloom management and mitigation. We quantified the abundances of O. ovata on different macroalgal communities dominated by specific macroalgal species, and measure multiple environment and weather factors to determine their effects on O. ovata abundances and endeavored to identify a correlation between O. ovata abundance and ambient abiotic factors.

Materials and Methods

Description of the study sites

The study site is located at the western head of Abu Qir Bay, east of Alexandria City. It is a relatively sheltered rocky shore, characterized by chains of natural exposed rocks extends for about 100 m seaward from the coast. Its massive rocky outcrops provide a suitable substratum for a rich algal flora [18]. This site was selected due to the presence of abundant and highly productive macroalgae community [7]. A transect stretched for about 25 m long was positioned perpendicular to the coast, among which two sites at 0.5 m and 1m depth were chosen. Sampling was carried out in May, July, and October of 2017 and February of 2018 (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Location of the studied site.

Sampling methods

A total of 26 samples of macroalgae including 14 macroalgal species of the different groups Rhodophyta (7 species), Phaeophyta (2 species), and Chlorophyta (5 species) were collected seasonally at a rocky substrate. Depending on their growth cycle and the environmental disturbance, some macroalgae species were missing, particularly during rough sea periods in winter, and therefore could not be collected. Thus, the collected macroalgae here represents the whole algal species present during the different months. The handpicked macroalgae of ca. 20- 100 g wet weight collected carefully was placed into individual plastic bags with surrounding seawater, and transported on ice cooler back to the laboratory. In laboratory, each macroalgae was put in a plastic container with 250 mL of fresh filtered seawater, vigorously shaken to dislodge epiphytic cells, and the material passed through several meshed filter (500, 100 and 20 μm mesh) to separate macroalgae and water containing microalgae [19]. The material retained by the filter was suspended in sterile filtered seawater (25 mL) and fixed with the addition of Lugol's acid solution at 1%. For qualitative and quantitative analyses, 2 mL of preserved sample from determined wet weight of each macroalgal sample was counted triplicate using counting chamber. Cell abundances of epiphytic cells expressed here as cells g-1 wet weight of macroalgae, following the methodology described by Okolodkov [20]. Identification and nomenclature of microorganisms followed appropriate keys while macroalgae following standard taxonomic keys as described by Aleem et al. [21-24].

Measurement of environmental factors

Water temperature (°C), salinity, dissolved oxygen (mg l-1 and saturation %) and pH values determined using the (hydro lab. HANA, Model HI 9828). Samples intended for nutrient analysis were kept in the dark at 4°C. Concentrations of nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, phosphate and silicate were measured according to the methodology of Strickland and Parsons [25].

Statistical analyses

The Pearson's correlation coefficient “r” and multiregression analyses (STATISTICA 7.0, Stat Soft, Inc.) were applied on the whole data set in order to highlight eventual relationships between Ostreopsis abundance and environmental parameters, as well as between the parameters themselves across the two sites.


Environmental characteristics of sites

The sampled sites were natural rocky areas and were highly exposed to hydrodynamic conditions. Each measured environmental parameter showed approximately the same range of values at sampled sites. The physical and chemical parameters of water from locations collecting samples are given in Table 1.

Parameter °C Salinity pH DO mgL-1 DO% NO2 µM NO3 µM NH4  µM TN µM SiO4  µM PO4 µM
May 25.1 37.2 8.37 10.4 61.5 3 11.02 2.5 16.52 0.12 0.66
July 28.37 35.43 8.59 9.35 39.2 1.2 8.34 2.8 12.34 5.64 5.44
October 22.34 36.6 8.11 2.65 139.2 1.5 10.1 1.2 12.8 0.62 1
February 17.63 35.8 8.65 3.58 163.1 2.34 7.8 2.2 12.34 0.45 0.39
Mean 23.36 36.26 8.43 6.50 100.75 2.01 9.32 2.18 13.50 1.71 1.87
S. D 4.54 0.80 0.24 3.94 59.71 0.82 1.50 0.69 2.02 2.63 2.39

Table 1: Temporal distribution of physical and chemical parameters.

The total temperature range encountered varied within 10.74°C between the lowest in February and the highest in July, reflecting a clear seasonality. Salinity range varied within 1.77, with no particular seasonal variation. The hydrogen ion concentration values lie in the alkaline side and with a very narrow range of fluctuation (0.54). Dissolved oxygen in May and July increased by 3.5-3.9 times greater compared with the minimum in October. Concerning nutrients, nitrite followed typical summer minimum, and it was highest in May. Nitrate concentrations were always high, and expressed 63.21-78.91% of the total nitrogen. Ammonia concentrations were often <3 μM, and reached minimum in October. Silicate values were the lowest in May, and were at a maximum of 5.64 μM in July. Phosphate trend followed that of silicate.

Macroalgae species

The encountered macroalgae species in the present study (14 species) are given in Table 2 Clear seasonality is evident, and Ulva compressa represents a perennial form.

Group May July October February
  Ulva fasciata Ulva fasciata Ulva compressa Ulva fasciata
Ulva compressa Ulva  compressa Ulva lactuca Ulva compressa
Ulva linza Cladophora pelluceda   Ulva linza
  Corallina officianalis Jania rubens corallina mediterranean Corallina officianalis
Laurencia papillosa Jania smooth corallina elongata Corallina elongata
Pterocladia capillacea Pterocladia capillacea corallina officianalis Pterocladia capillacea
    Jania rubens  
  Cystoseira spinosa Padina pavonia not recorded Cystoseira spinosa
Padina pavonia     Padina pavonia

Table 2: Monthly occurrence of the host macroalgae.

Epiphytic species

Generally, the phytoplankton epiphytic species other than O. cf. ovata found during the study comprised mainly diatom species of the genera Achnanthes (Agardh), Bacillaria (Gemlin), Climacosphenia (Ehrenberg), Cocconies (Ehrenberg), Cyclotella (Chang), Licmophora (Agardh), Melosira (Pritchard), Navicula (Cleve & Grunow), Odentella (Agardh), Pleurosigma (Smith), Pseudonitzschia (Cleve), and Synedra (Nitzsch), and few rather dinoflagellates mostly belong to the genera Prorocentrum (Ehrenberg), Protoperidinum (Balech), Pyrophacus (Stein), and Scrippsiella (Loeblich III). The abundance of epiphytic cells is given in Table 3.

Macroalgae Cells g-1  w.w. X 103 Epiphytic cells g-1  w.w. X  103 % to total epiphytic cells
St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
May 62.38 51.72 85.09 66.26 73.32 78.06
July 65.48 49.67 75.07 58.69 87.22 84.63
October 56.00 40.00 68.63 44.73 81.59 89.42
February 0.09 0.07 1.36 1.28 6.85 5.74
May 12.24 9.22 12.84 9.96 95.33 92.57
July 19.17 15.94 22.96 23.03 83.49 69.22
October 15.18 11.44 18.98 15.32 79.97 74.70
February 0.27 0.16 1.97 2.75 13.81 5.83
May 6.12 3.76 6.75 5.4 90.67 69.63
July 15.47 15.32 18.11 18.02 85.42 85.01
October Absent
February 0.22 0.18 2.28 1.72 3.15 3.46

Table 3: Abundance of the Ostreopsis cf. ovata (average cells g-1 wet weight x 103) on the different macroalgae groups.

Temporal trend of Ostreopsis

The surface distribution of O. ovata reflects its nature an epiphytic form that attached on the thalli of the whole tested macroalgal groups with different frequencies, and during the different seasons. Based on average values (Table 3), and neglecting multiple factors as the seasonal variation of both macroalgal and microalgal species diversity and community structure, the magnitude of the abundance is arranged as Chlorophyta>Rhodophyta> Phaeophyta. The results highlighted the highest abundance observed between spring and autumn culminated the peak on chlorophycean species in July, while, it was sharply declined in winter when the abundance was at minimum in February.

The diatom Navicula sp. during February was the major contributor to total epiphytic diatom density (35% of the total diatom abundance). Meanwhile, no epiphytic O. ovata were found on Phaeophyta sp. in October. This species contributes significantly to the total epiphytic counts at the two sampling sites with higher abundances at the relatively far station comparing with each other’s, following the same seasonal trend.

Abundance on macroalgae species

The field work involved the manipulation of naturally occurring macroalgal community omplexities in shallow rocky shore. The results show noticeable differences in the abundance of O. ovata depending on macroalgal host species, without statistically highlighting a clear substrate preference. The Chlorophytes U. linza, U. compressa and U. fasciata were particularly able to support very high abundances of Ostreopsis during May and July, and it was relatively less on U. lactuca in October. The maximum abundance on U. linza during May attained almost 1900 times the values estimated during February on the same species. The results declared Chlorophytes might be the optimal macroalgae for epiphytic Ostreopsis. As for the Rhodophyta, the maximum abundance was found on C. officianalis in July and October. The occurrence of the Phaeophyta species was restricted to May and July, and hence, abundance on the species was very low, among them, P. pavonia sustained the highest abundances.

In May (Table 4), the highest abundance of Ostreopsis appeared attached mainly to the Chlorophyta species in order of magnitude U. linza>U. fasciata>U. compressa, representing 42.53-99.44% of the total epiphytes. Much lower densities found on Rhodophyta species, but, mainly were restricted to the thalli of C. officianalis, contributing >94% of the total. A few thousand cells were gathered on the surface of L. papillosa, higher than on P. capillacea. The lowest abundance appeared on the Phaeophyta C. spinosa.

May Cells g-1 w.w. X 103 Epiphytic cells g-1 w.w. X 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range Range Range
Chlorophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
U. compressa 49.8-62.66 39.6-50.5 112.6-130.5 67.8-80.9 42.53-51.03 58.41-64.35
Mean 55.99 45.2 121.97 73.13    
SD 6.44 5.46 8.98 6.88    
U. linza 68.4-75.5 56.8-63.5 78.8-91.5 60.5-75.5 74.75-91.52 79.74-93.88
Mean 71.40 60.17 84.27 68.93    
SD 3.68 3.35 6.53 7.67    
U. fasciata 58.2-60.8 43.1-53.5 65.4-74.3 53.1-63.6 81.83-88.99 80.71-99.41
Mean 59.77 49.80 70.03 56.70    
SD 1.38 5.81 4.46 5.90    
May Cell g-1 w.w x 103 Epiphytic cell g-1 w.wx103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range Range Range
Rhodophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
C. officianalis 27.1-29.9 19.8-24.6 27.9-30.5 20.7-26 96.4-98.92 94.62-96.36
Mean 28.20 21.87 28.83 22.90    
SD 1.49 2.47 1.45 2.76    
P. capillacea 2.1-2.67 1.1-1.5 2.4-3.1 1.5-1.9 79.29-87.50 68.42-83.3
Mean 6.99 3.90 8.30 5.20    
SD 2.33 1.30 2.77 1.73    
L. papillosa 4.4-8.6 3.5-5.8 4.8-9.4 4.5-6.3 84.85-91.67 77.78-92.06
Mean 6.20 4.50 6.90 5.23    
SD 2.16 1.18 2.32 0.95    
May Cells g-1 w.w x 103 Epiphytic cell g-1 w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range Range Range
Phaeophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
C. spinosa 1.1-2.1 0.7-1.2 1.4-2.5 0.9-1.5 78.57-85.71 56.67-85.71
Mean 1.67 0.92 2.00 1.70    
SD 0.51 0.26 0.56 6.85    
P. pavonia 1.8-2.8 1.7-2.5 2.3-2.9 2.3-2.8 78.26-96.55 73.91-89.29
Mean 2.23 2.02 2.50 2.50    
SD 0.51 0.43 0.35 0.26    

Table 4: Abundance (cells g-1 wet weight x103 (of Ostreopsis cf. ovata cells on macroalgae species during May.

The macroalgal community changed in July compared with May as C. pelluceda replaced U. linza, Rhodophyta species were well diversified (4 spp.), and species belong to Phaeophyta were not recorded. The diversified algal community might contribute to the abundance of O. ovata observed all over the year (Table 5).

July Cells g-1 fwx103 Epiphytic cells g-1 fwx103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range Range Range
Chlorophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
C. pelluceda 49.60-67.89 30.10-36.50 63.20-70.90 38.30-40.20 75.73-95.75 78.59-90.80
Mean 56.60 33.00 66.53 39.07    
SD 9.87 3.24 3.95 1.00    
U. fasciata 63.90-71.20 47.70-56.30 69.50-79.20 52.20-68.90 89.46-89.90 78.81-91.38
Mean 66.53 51.40 73.60 61.60    
SD 4.05 4.42 5.02 8.55    
U.  compressa 67.40-80.20 60.60-67.70 78.80-89.90 70.10-80.60 77.92-91.75 80.26-96.58
Mean 73.30 64.60 85.07 75.40    
SD 6.46 3.63 5.69 5.25    
July Cells g-1  w.w x 103 Epiphytic cells g-1  w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range   Range   Range  
Rhodophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
J. rubens 28.60-36.60 27.60-31.80 36.70-40.20 35.40-38.40 77.93-91.04 77.86-85.03
Mean 34.87 29.77 36.27 37.07    
SD 5.66 2.10 4.17 1.53    
J. smooth 12.60-21.20 10.40-16.70 19.90-26.10 20.20-36.80 70.11-83.14 45.38-78.22
Mean 17.37 14.30 23.83 25.80    
SD 4.38 3.41 3.42 9.53    
P. capillacea 3.40-6.70 3.10-4.80 7.90-9.80 5.40-7.40 43.04-68.37 57.41-64.86
Mean 5.27 3.77 8.77 6.23    
July Cells g-1 w.w x 103   Epiphytic cells g-1 w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range               Range               Range  
Phaeophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
P. pavonia 40.40-51.10 36.50-53.30 48.50-60.10 43.30-63.50 83.30-85.29 83.94-89.17
Mean 45.97 46.40 54.33 54.07    
SD 5.36 8.79 5.80 10.17    

Table 5: Abundance (cells g -1 wet weight x103 (of Ostreopsis cf. ovata cells on macroalgae species during July.

The Chlorophytes were still the hosts having the highest abundances of Ostreopsis in the order of magnitude U. compressa> U. fasciata> C. pelluceda. Among the Rhodophytes, J. rubens seems the preferable host, where Ostreopsis contributed 77.86-91.04% of the total epiphytes. Again, the lowest abundance detected on P. capillacea.

Chlorophyta in October comprised U. compressa and U. lactuca, but, with almost similar Ostreopsis abundances. Among the four recorded Rhodophytes, the highest abundance, in May was found on C. officianalis, followed by C. elongata as the second important host, while, the lowest density observed on C. mediterranean (Table 6).

October Cells g-1 wwx103   Epiphytic cells g-1 wwx103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range              Range   Range  
Chlorophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
U. compressa 50.60-58.30 39.50-40.10 63.20-76.90 40.20-48.70 74.25-92.25 83.02-98.26
Mean 55.33 40.67 68.53 45.73    
SD 4.14 1.53 7.34 4.80    
U. lactuca 50.60-67.10 32.40-46.10 63.80-76.90 38.70-48.30 77.25-87.26 83.72-95.45
Mean 56.67 39.33 68.73 43.73    
October Cells g-1  w.w x 103 Epiphytic cells g-1  w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Species Range Range Range
Rhodophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
C. mediterranean 5.60-8.40 0.90-5.60 6.50-10.60 2.50-7.40 71.28-86.15 36-75.68
Mean 6.90 4.00 8.83 5.77    
SD 1.41 2.69 2.11 2.83    
C. elongata 14.10-17.30 11.20-18.40 18.60-20.40 16.40-21.40 75.49-89.18 68.29-86.83
Mean 15.60 14.70 19.47 18.17    
SD 1.61 3.60 0.90 2.80    
C. officianalis 17.30-33.40 13.40-21.20 19.40-40.40 18.70-26.40 83.67-89.18 65.69-80.30
Mean 24.93 16.37 29.47 21.83    
SD 8.08 4.22 10.53 4.05    
J. rubens 11.40-14.30 9.50-11.20 16.40-19.40 14.40-16.40 69.51-75.81 60.51-77.78
Mean 13.27 10.70 18.13 15.50    
SD 1.62 1.04 1.55 1.01    

Table 6: Abundance (cells g-1 wet weight x103 (of Ostreopsis cf ovata cells on macroalgae species during October.

Despite the well diversified macroalgal community in February (8 species), the epiphyte density dropped to minimum compared with other months. Ostreopsis abundance did not exceed 12, 80 and 35 cell g-1 wet weight on the Chlorophyta, Rhodophyta and Phaeophyta species. The highest Ostreopsis abundance was restricted to the Rhodophytes C. elongata and P. capillacea. Moreover, its contribution to the total epiphytes was low, almost nil on P. capillacea and P. pavonia. The thalli of Phaeophyta P. pavonia and C. spinosa sustained the lowest abundance.

Interactions of the abundance of Ostreopsis cf. ovata with measured physical and chemical environmental parameters

The results of the statistical analyses (Tables 7-9) revealed water temperature the major environmental contributory affecting the occurrence O. ovata on examined macroalgae. The nutrients, NO3 and PO4 contribute significantly to the abundance of Ostreopsis on Chlorophyta spp., while, NO2, SiO4 beside PO4 link significantly with its abundance on Rhodophyta. Salinity variations exhibit a weak, insignificant influence on the abundance attached to Chlorophyta spp., and it is almost of a negligible effect for Rhodophyta spp. A linear insignificant negative correlation was found with the pH variations. The highly significant correlation between salinity and nutrient concentrations indicate discharged fresh water the main source of nutrients supply.

February Cells g-1 w.w x 103   Epiphytic cells g-1 w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Chlorophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
U. linza 0.04 0.05 2.40 2.10 1.67 2.38
U. fasciata 0.12 0.10 1.50 1.60 8.00 6.25
U. compressa 0.12 0.07 0.19 0.13 63.16 53.85
Total 0.28 0.22 4.09 3.83    
February Cells g-1 w.w x 103 Epiphytic cells g-1  w.w x 103 % to total epiphytic cells
Phaeophyta St. I St. II St. I St. II St. I St. II
P. pavonia 0.01-0.22 0.07-0.12 1.1-2.3 1.36-2.1 0.48-20 4.12-8.89
Mean 0.14 0.10 1.83 1.72    
SD 0.12 0.03 0.64 0.38    
C. spinosa 0.25-0.35 0.19-0.32 2.1-3.3 1.05-2.1 7.58-16.67 9.05-30.48
Mean 0.30 0.26 2.73 1.72    
SD 0.05 0.07 0.60 0.58    

Table 7: Abundance (cell g-1 wet weight x103(of Ostreopsis cf ovata cells on macroalgae species during February.

Variables St. I St. II °C Salinity pH DO DO% NO2 NO3 NH4 SiO4 PO4
St. I 1                      
St. II 0.90 1                    
°C 0.80 0.73 1                  
Salinity 0.14 0.21 -0.28 1                
pH -0.24 -0.19 0.28 -0.67 1              
DO 0.52 0.58 0.74 0.09 0.45 1            
DO% -0.10 0.02 0.25 -0.05 0.77 0.76 1          
NO2 -0.15 -0.01 -0.32 0.81 -0.12 0.33 0.49 1        
NO3 0.38 0.42 -0.05 0.96 -0.71 0.20 -0.11 0.69 1      
NH4 0.20 0.26 0.64 -0.33 0.84 0.87 0.89 0.11 -0.28 1    
SiO4 0.33 0.24 0.73 -0.86 0.60 0.31 0.14 -0.76 -0.71 0.55 1  
PO4 0.39 0.30 0.78 -0.82 0.57 0.35 0.14 -0.75 -0.66 0.56 1 1
Values in bold are different from 0 with a significance level alpha=0.05        

Table 8: Pearson’s correlation values for Ostreopsis cf. ovata on Chlorophyta species.

Variables St. I St. II °C Salinity pH DO DO% NO2 NO3 NH4 SiO4 PO4
St. I 1                      
St. II 0.97 1                    
oC 0.53 0.54 1                  
Salinity 0.03 -0.02 -0.03 1                
pH -0.26 -0.21 -0.04 -0.68 1              
DO 0.23 0.25 0.76 0.09 0.36 1            
DO% -0.25 -0.22 0.05 -0.23 0.87 0.63 1          
NO2 -0.34 -0.36 -0.31 0.61 0.15 0.31 0.57 1        
NO3 0.23 0.19 0.27 0.94 -0.76 0.23 -0.34 0.38 1      
NH4 0.00 0.04 0.47 -0.36 0.81 0.83 0.89 0.25 -0.31 1    
SiO4 0.35 0.39 0.71 -0.73 0.43 0.43 0.16 -0.67 -0.47 0.54 1.00  
PO4 0.39 0.43 0.77 -0.66 0.36 0.47 0.12 -0.66 -0.38 0.53 0.99 1
Values in bold are different from 0 with a significance level alpha=0.05

Table 9: Pearson’s correlation values for Ostreopsis cf. ovata on Rhodophyta species.

The multiple regression equation for O. ovata (Cell g-1 wet weight) on Chlorophyta is expressed as:

= -147.49 - 4.87* °C - 28.92* NO3 + 20.22*PO4….. R2 =0.88, n=27

explain the significant importance of these parameters in combination, on Rhodophyta as:

= -20.44+2.09* °C - 6.47*NO2 - 2.10* SiO4 + 2.2 *PO4… R2 =0.36, n=39

explain about 36% of the O. ovata variations.

The relation between Ostreopsis abundance on the green algae U. compressa and measured environmental factors was also done. This macroalgal species was chosen being a perennial form. The results Table 10 support others previously mentioned factors for all Chlorophyta spp., but, salinity negatively correlated with its abundance and PO4 concentration seem more effective.

  St. I St. II °C Salinity pH DO DO% NO2 NO3 NH4 SiO4 PO4
St. I 1                      
St. II 0.96 1                    
°C 0.88 0.95 1                  
Salinity -0.12 -0.24 -0.30 1                
pH -0.09 0.10 0.34 -0.64 1              
DO 0.45 0.56 0.75 0.03 0.56 1            
DO% -0.10 0.04 -0.32 -0.10 0.82 0.81 1          
NO2 -0.38 -0.40 -0.27 0.77 -0.02 0.38 0.52 1        
NO3 0.14 0.01 -0.08 0.97 -0.69 0.12 -0.16 0.64 1.00      
NH4 0.24 0.40 0.65 -0.35 0.87 0.89 0.91 0.19 -0.31 1    
SiO4 0.56 0.68 0.74 -0.86 0.61 0.36 0.21 -0.70 -0.72 0.56 1  
PO4 0.62 0.73 0.78 -0.82 0.58 0.39 0.21 -0.69 -0.66 0.57 1.00 1

Table 10: Pearson’s correlation values for Ostreopsis cf. ovata on Ulva compressa.

The Pearson linear correlation between the epiphytic O. ovata concentrations was significant (p<0.01, N = 55, rs = 0.71), with an explained percentage of variation of R2 = 0.50.


The present study represents the first specific contribution on the epiphytic O. ovata in the Egyptian Mediterranean waters. Previously, this species was recorded planktonic form the investigated area, with a maximum abundance over 1980 cell l-1 [7]. The study declared O. cf. ovata is not an obligate epiphytic species; since it is able to colonize the macroalgae thalli of 14 species of different groups include 5 Chlorophyta, 7 Rhodophyta and 2 Phaeophyta. A reasonable body of ecological studies has been conducted on the potential role of environmental on the dynamic occurrence of Ostreopsis. However, in many cases, contrasting results are found for the same taxon from different areas and the role of ecological habitats in the facilitation of attachment has rarely been considered [7,11]. Most of the research focused on the effects of seawater temperature, nutrients, and salinity on Ostreopsis sp. populations.

The statistical analyses illustrate how environmental factors in the sampling sites might influence epiphytic Ostreopsis abundance, particularly water temperature and the dissolved nitrate and phosphate concentrations; temperature was the major factor. However, the impact of temperature alone during the summer period, which was represented here by July, seems less evident may be due to strong interactions with other unmeasured physical parameters as light intensity and photoperiod wave activity and some biotic factors that could also be involved such as the availability of some seasonal macroalgal substrates and the competition with other microphytes [20,26]. Also allelopathy has been often suggested among the biotic factors crucial to Ostreopsis [27]. A concise summary of the effects of surface seawater temperature, salinity and nutrient concentrations on Ostreopsis sp. populations in temperate regions can be found in Accoroni and Totti’s review [11].

The maximum abundance of Ostreopsis in July took place at the highest water temperature (28.37°C), and a relative decrease of abundances observed in May and October at temperature between 22.34°C and 25.1°C, reaching its minimum in February associated with the lowest temperature all over the year (17.63°C). A bloom event reported with temperature not exceeding 22.5°C while, the results of Cohu et al. highlighted substantial seasonal variations in the abundance of Ostreopsis within an optimum growth temperature ranging from 23°C to 27.5°C. Moreover, temperatures from 22 to 30°C seem to favor Ostreopsis sp. blooms in temperate zones areas the Mediterranean Sea and the New Zealand coasts but the link between temperature and Ostreopsis growth is still not so clear and the relationship with the seawater temperature is not the same in all the geographic areas [28-30]. Also, Ostreopsis strains sampled from the tropics have exhibited growth optima in the range 25-30°C [26]. Until now, O. ovata and O. siamensis have been detected at the minimal temperatures of 13°C- 14.5°C in the Mediterranean Sea, yet were also recorded when water temperature dropped below 8°C [31,32]. Such results reveal a high tolerance to extreme climate changes [33]. Therefore, Yamaguchi et al. based on field and experimental studies demonstrated a wide tolerance ability of O. ovata to a wide temperature ranges, offering some reasons to explain its recent geographical expansion and occurrence in temperate areas [34]. These conflicting results may likely reflect geographical differences [8]. In the Mediterranean Sea, the seasonal trend of Ostreopsis sp. clearly follows temperature seasonality [31]. The observed marked heterogeneity in the abundance of O. ovata among the examined macroalgae of different groups, beside other substrates could partially explain its spatial variability [35].

Other ecological parameters of weak contribution to the variation of O. ovata were salinity and pH, in particular on Chlorophyta. The maximum abundance of this species occurred at 35.43 in July, while, at the same salinity level (35.8) in February, the abundance was at minimum. The results thus explain the insignificant correlation of salinity with abundance of Ostreopsis, and its negligible effect on Rhodophyta sp. The intermediate salinity levels, a sign of incoming discharged waters might have positive impact on the epiphytic Ostreopsis to proliferate. According to Delgado et al. freshwater source should have a negative impact on O. ovata growth via a decrease of salinity, as observed on O. lenticularis and others dinoflagellates [36]. Morton et al. reported that O. siamensis and O. heptagona displayed maximal growth at a salinity value of 33 [26]. In contrast, O. ovata isolated from Hawaii were found to be negatively correlated with salinity in agreement with Carlson and Tindall [37,38].

The role of depth was assessed at two target sites where samples were collected at 0.5 m and 1 m depth. Despite the very narrow distance between the two sites, the abundance of Ostreopsis was always higher at the relatively far site; more strong hydrodynamic action at St. II may be involved affecting abundance [6]. The abundance at St. II compared with St. I contributed 71.43-82.91% for Chlorophyta, 58.78-83.19% for Rhodophyta and 61.44-99.03% for Phaeophyta. While several authors found a significant negative relation of Ostreopsis with depth, other denied such conclusion [39,40]. However, one study contradicts these conclusions indicating that Ostreopsis sp. is better adapted to ‘slightly shaken’ environments [41]. The oxygen saturation decrease in summer was related to the increase in seawater temperature. It is might also be linked to the higher consumption of oxygen related to organic matter decomposition during O. ovata main occurrence; the negative correlation between these two factors might explain such observation.

The results showed the measured nutrient concentrations values falling within the expected range for a shallow area subjected to a moderate/temporally anthropic impact [7]. The high NO3 concentrations with the main Ostreopsis occurrence periods, and that of PO4 in July as well certainly indicate arrival of nutrients supply through eutrophication processes. Since the study area is a summer resort that starts annually from May, the increased population density might represent a crucial anthropogenic reason to promote the occurrence of Ostreopsis in such urbanized area, similar to other data [42]. The statistical analyses declared highly significant correlation between salinity and nutrient concentration indicates same source of nutrient supply. The analyses showed the positive significant correlation between NO3, PO4 and abundance of O. ovata on Chlorophytes, and the same for NO2 and PO4 for Rhodophytes, and also with a significant positive correlation with SiO4, in agreement with Parsons and Preskitt [37]. Such high nutrient concentrations provide an indication of eutrophication that might play a significant part to control the epiphytic Ostreopsis abundance. Subsequently, there are some conflicting results regarding the relationships of nutrients with Ostreopsis proliferation trends in field observations of tropical and temperate areas [39]. However, often, and particularly in coastal areas, eutrophication appears to be directly linked to the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and worldwide Ostreopsis sp. appears to proliferate both in eutrophicated and oligotrophic areas [43-45]. Meanwhile, anthropogenic nutrient enrichment might have an indirect impact on Ostreopsis sp. abundance by inducing a shift in macroalgae coverage frequency and/or composition, which lead to an additional difficulty in ecological studies [46]. Silicate seems to match with the abundance of O. ovata on Rhodophyta species; it is unexpected for dinoflagellates which do not specifically use silicate for their growth, in contrast to diatoms.

Another environmental factor seems to affect the abundance of O. ovata was the N:P ratios. The N:P ratios calculated based on the Redfield model [47]. Working on this principle, high N:P ratios during May and February may be taken as indicative of low P availability, whereas low values (<16) during July and October might indicate Nlimitation [48]. The N:P ratios matched in strong negatively correlation with the abundance of Ostreopsis on Chlorophyta sp. (r=0.38 and 0.25 at St. I and II, respectively, n=27, p at 0.5), and corresponded in high significance with its abundance on Rhodophytes (r=0.54 and 0.55). The indirect effect of N:P ratio through changed macroalgal composition was discussed [49,50].

The results declared O. ovata found on all the examined macroalgae, exhibits the different host preferences; Ulva species were the optimal macroalgae for the epiphytic O. ovata. However, factors as algae structure and surface area, regional occurrence and coverage percentage, and presence of allelopathic compounds may determine the host preference of the species [7]. According to the field observations, Ulva sp. predominated all the investigated period, with different frequency degrees. As far as macroalgae are concerned, Cohu et al. [42] were unsuccessful in establishing significant preferences, while, Accoroni et al. [11] noted Ostreopsis sp. to display algal host preference, and certain macoalgae species have the ability of support very high abundance of O. ovata offering evidences that algal host preferences is species-specific [8]. The present study documented the significant importance of Ulva sp. as the suitable host of O. ovata in Alexandria waters, in contrasting with others in the Mediterranean Sea that show O. ovata most often found on Phaeophyta and Rhodophyta sp. [31].


The potential toxic O. ovata represents another additional threat to economy and public health in Alexandria. To our knowledge, this is its first study as epiphytic form in SE Mediterranean Sea taking into account diverse ecological and biological factors. Temperature, PO4 and NO3 seem major contributors influencing its abundance. Ostreopsis ovata had the ability to attach to a diversified macroalgae species, with preference to Chlorophyta. Since O. cf. ovate cells are loosely attach to the substrata and can be easily removed and re-suspended in the water column, future study of wave action in Alexandria waters presents untapped field of research with great potential.


  1. Armitage AR, Frankovich TA, Fourqurean JW. Variable responses within epiphytic and benthic microalgal communities to nutrient enrichment. Hydrobiologia. 2006;549(1):423-435.
  2. Armitage AR, Fong P. Upward cascading effects of nutrients: shifts in a benthic microalgal community and a negative
  3. Littler MM, Littler DS. Blade abandonment/ proliferation: a novel mechanism for rapid epiphyte control in marine macrophytes. Ecology. 1999;80(5):1736-1746.
  4. Drake LA, Dobbs FC, Zimmerman RC. Effects of epiphyte load on optical properties and photosynthetic potential of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum Banks ex König and Zostera marina L. Limnol Ocean. 2003;48:456-463.
  5. Rhodes L. World-wide occurrence of the toxic dinoflagellate genus Ostreopsis schmidt. Toxicon. 2011;57:400-407.
  6. Totti C, Accoroni S, Cerino F, Cucchiari E, Romagnoli T. Ostreopsis ovata bloom along the Conero Riviera (northern Adriatic Sea): relationships with environmental conditions and substrata. Harmful Algae. 2010;9(2):233-239.
  7. Hosny SH. Ecological and Physiological Studies on the Interaction between Macroalgae and Phytoplankton off Alexandria Mediterranean Coast (Egypt). Thesis (PHD), faculty of Science, Tanta University. 2016.
  8. Parsons ML, Aligizaki K, Bottein MYD, Fraga S, Morton SL. Gambierdiscus and Ostreopsis: Reassessment of the state of knowledge of their taxonomy, geography, ecophysiology, and toxicology. Harmful Algae. 2012;14:107-129.
  9. Catania D. The influence of macroalgae on the proliferation and regulation of the benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata blooms. Agricultural sciences. Université Côte d’Azur. 2017.
  10. Yasumoto T, Seino N, Murakami Y, Murata M. Toxins produced by benthic dinoflagellates. The Biological Bulletin. 1987;172:128-131.
  11. Accoroni S, Totti C. The toxic benthic dinoflagellates of the genus Ostreopsis in temperate areas: a review. Adv Ocean Limnol. 2016;7:1-15.
  12. Ciminiello P, Dell’Aversano C, Fattorusso E, Forino M, Grauso L. 4-decade-long (and still ongoing) hunt for palytoxins chemical architecture. Toxicon. 2011;57:362-367.
  13. Sansoni G, Borghini B, Camici G, Casatti M, Righini P. Fioriture algali di Ostreopsis ovata (Gonyaulacales: Dinophyceae): un problema emergente. Biol Ambient. 2003;17:17-23.
  14. Aligizaki K, Katikou P, Milandri A, Diogène J. Occurrence of palytoxin-group toxins in seafood and future strategies to complement the present state of the art. Toxicon. 2011;57(3):390-399.
  15. Tubaro A, Durando P, Del Favero G, Ansaldi F, Icardi G. Case definitions for human poisonings postulated to palytoxins exposure. Toxicon. 2011;57(3):478-495.
  16. Mikhail SK, Labib W. Red tide outbreaks in Alexandria waters: Invasive harmful species. Proceeding of The 15th Conference on Harmful Algal Blooms. Korea Republic. 2013;41-44.
  17. Ismael A, Halim Y. Potentially harmful ostreopsis spp. in the coastal waters of alexandria-egypt. Med Mar Sci. 2012;13:208- 212.
  18. Khalil AN. A list of the marine algae from the Alexandria Coast, Egypt. Bull Inst Oceanogr & Fish ARE. 1987;13:229-240.
  19. Okolodkov Y, Bautista GC, Lizárraga IG, González JAGG, Hoppenrath M. Seasonal changes of benthic and epiphytic dinoflagellates in the Veracruz reef zone, Gulf of Mexico. Aquat Microb Ecol. 2007;47:223-237.
  20. Steidinger KA, Tangen K. Dinoflagellates. In: C.R. Tomas (ed), Identifying Marine Diatoms and Dinoflagellates, Academic Press, New York, 1996;387-598.
  21. Kang NS, Jeong HJ, Lee SY, Lim AS, Lee MJ. Morphology and molecular characterization of the epiphytic benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata in the temperate waters off Jeju Island, Korea. Harmful Algae. 2013;27:98-112.
  22. Aleem AA (1993) The marine algae of Alexandria. University Alexandria, Egypt, 1993;139.
  23. Abbott IA, Huisman JM. Marine green and brown algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 2004.
  24. Strickland JD, Parsons TR. A practical handbook of sea water analysis 2nd Ed. Bull Fish Res Bd Can. 1972;167:310.
  25. Morton SL, Norris DR, Bomber JW. Effect of temperature, salinity and light intensity on the growth and seasonality of toxic dinoflagellates associated with ciguatera. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol. 1992;157:79-90.
  26. Boisnoir A, Pascal PY, Cordonnier S, Lemée R. Spatio- temporal dynamics and biotic substrate preferences of benthic dinoflagellates in the Lesser Antilles, Caribbean sea. Harmful Algae. 2019;81:18-29.
  27. Cohu S, Thibaut T, Mangialajo L, Labat JP, Passafiume O. Occurrence of the toxic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata in relation with environmental factors in Monaco (NW Mediterranean). Mar Pollut Bull. 2011;62:2681-2691.
  28. Brahim MB, Feki M, Bouain A. Occurrences of the toxic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata in relation with environmental factors in Kerkennah Island (Southern coast of Tunisia). J Coast Life Med. 2015;3:596-599.
  29. Mangialajo L, Ganzin N, Accoroni S, Asnaghi V, Blanfune´ Trends in Ostreopsis proliferation along the Northern Mediterranean coasts. Toxicon. 2011;57:408-420.
  30. Aligizaki K, Nikolaidis G. The presence of the potentially toxic genera Ostreopsis aligialigiand Coolia (Dinophyceae) in the North Aegean Sea, Greece. Harmful Algae. 2006;5:717-730.
  31. Selina MS, Orlova TY. First occurrence of the genus Ostreopsis (Dinophyceae) in the Sea of Japan. Botanica Marina. 2010;53:243-249.
  32. Selina MS, Levchenko EV. Species composition and morphology of dinoflagellates (Dinophyta) of epiphytic assemblages of Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan. Russ J Mar Biol. 2011;37:23-32.
  33. Yamaguchi H, Tanimoto Y, Yoshimatsu T, Sato S, Nishimura T. Culture method and growth characteristics of marine benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis spp. isolated from Japanese coastal waters. Fisheries Science. 2012;78:993-1000.
  34. Mangialajo L, Bertolotto R, Vietti RC, Chiantore M, Grillo C. The toxic benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis ovata: Quantification of proliferation along the coastline of Genoa, Italy. Marina Pollution Bull. 2008;56:1209-1214.
  35. Delgado G, Devéze CHL, Popowski G, Troccoli L, Salinas CA. Epiphytic dinoflagellates associated with ciguatera in the northwestern coast of Cuba. Rev Biology Trop. 2006;54:299- 310.
  36. Parsons ML, Preskitt LB. A survey of epiphytic dinoflagellates from the coastal waters of the island of Hawai’i. Harmful Algae. 2007;6:658-669.
  37. Carlson R, Trindall D. Distribution and periodicity of toxic dinoflagellates in the Virgin Islands. In Toxic Dinoflagellates, Elsevier Science, New York, USA. 1985;171-176.
  38. Cohu S, Lemee R. Vertical distribution of the toxic epibenthic dinoflagellates Ostreopsis cf. ovata, Prorocentrum lima and Coolia monotis in the NW Mediterranean Sea. Cahiers Biology Marina. 2012;53:373-380.
  39. Mabrouk L, Hamza A, Mahfoudi M, Baradai MN. Spatial and temporal variations of epiphytic Ostreopsis siamensis on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves in Mahdia (Tunisia). Cah Biology Marina. 2012;53:419-427.
  40. Vila M, Garcés E, Masó M. Potentially toxic epiphytic dinoflagellate assemblages onmacroalgae in the NWMediterranean. Aquat Microb Ecol. 2001;26:51-60.
  41. Cohu S, Mangialajo L, Thibaut T, Blanfune A, Marro S. Proliferation of the toxic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata in relation to depth, biotic substrate and environmental factors in the North West Mediterranean Sea. Harmful Algae. 2013;24:32-44.
  42. Glibert PM, Allen JI, Bouwman AF, Brown CW, Flynn KJ. Modeling of HABs and eutrophication: status, advances, challenges. J Marine Syst. 2010;83:262-275.
  43. Accoroni S, Romagnoli T, Colombo F, Pennesi C, Di Camillo CG. Ostreopsis cf. ovata bloom in the northern Adriatic Sea during summer 2009: ecology, molecular characterization and toxin profile. Mar Pollut Bull. 2011;62:2512-2519.
  44. Shears NT, Ross PM. Blooms of benthic dinoflagellates of the genus Ostreopsis; an increasing and ecologically important phenomenon on temperate reefs in New Zealand and worldwide. Harmful Algae. 2009;8:916-925.
  45. Burkholder JM, Glibert PM, Skelton HM. Mixotrophy, a major mode of nutrition for harmful algal species in eutrophic waters. Harmful Algae. 2008;8:77-93.
  46. Redfield A. The biological control of chemical factors in the environment. 1958.
  47. Bethoux JP, Morin P, Pino DPR. Temporal trends in nutrient ratios: chemical evidence of Mediterranean ecosystem changes driven by human activity. Deep-Sea Res. 2002;49:2007-2016.
  48. Teichberg M, Fox SE, Aguila C, Olsen YS, Valiela I. Macroalgal response to experimental nutrient enrichment in shallow coastal waters: growth, internal nutrient pools, and isotopic signatures. Mar Ecol Prog Series. 2008;368:117-126.
  49. Accoronia S, Colombo F, Pichierria S, Romagnoli T, Marini M. Ecology of Ostreopsis cf. ovata blooms in the northwestern Adriatic Sea. Cryptogamie Algologie. 2012;33:191-198.

Author Info

Shimaa Hosny* and Wagdy Labib
Taxonomy & Biodiversity of Aquatic Biota Lab, Marine Environment Division, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Alexandria, Egypt

Citation: Hosny S, Labib W (2019) Ecology of the Epiphytic Potentially Harmful Dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata (Fukuyo) from Coastal Waters off Alexandria Egypt. J Oceanogr Mar Res 7:189. doi: 10.35248/2572-3103.19.7.189

Received: 19-Feb-2019 Accepted: 08-Mar-2019 Published: 15-Mar-2019 , DOI: 10.35248/2572-3103.19.7.189

Copyright: © 2019 Hosny S, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.