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Ciguatera Research

Ciguatera Research

An international team of researchers headed by Dr. Michael Parsons aims to better understand the factors that influence the occurrence of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, the most common form of phycotoxin-borne seafood poisoning in the world. This research will produce a comprehensive understanding of the diversity, physiology, and ecology of Gambierdiscus populations in the Greater Caribbean Region. 




  • Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) is caused by the consumption of seafood (primarily reef fish) contaminated with ciguatoxins, which persists even after cooking.
  • Gambiertoxins, precursors of ciguatoxins produced by the (sub)tropical benthic dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus, enter reef food webs when herbivores and detritivores consume Gambierdiscus directly or indirectly by grazing on macroalgae.  
  • Gambiertoxins are transferred to higher trophic levels by bioaccumulation, bioconversion and biomagnification until they reach predatory finfish species that are targeted in many commercial and recreational fisheries.
  • When people subsequently consume the contaminated fish, they are exposed to the toxins, thereby experiencing CFP.
 Student working on research data