First Report of the Epiphytic Dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus caribaeus in the Temperate Waters off Jeju Island, Korea: Morphology and Molecular Characterization


Corresponding Author: H.J. Jeong, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-747, Korea—Telephone number: +82 2 880 6746; FAX number: +82 2 874 9695; e-mail:


Gambierdiscus spp. are epiphytic, benthic dinoflagellates. Some species have been shown to be toxic and cause ciguatera fish poisoning. We report, for the first time, the occurrence of Gambierdiscus caribaeus isolated from the waters off Jeju Island in Korea. Its morphology was similar to that of the original Belize strains of G. caribaeus. Gambierdiscus caribaeus has been reported in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Floridian coast. Our report extends its range to the North Pacific Ocean. The plates of the Korean strain were arranged in a Kofoidian series of Po, 3′, 7′′, 6c, 6s, 5′′′, 1p, and 2′′′′, morphologically closer to other strains of G. caribaeus than to G. carpenteri. When properly aligned, its small subunit (SSU) rDNA was 0.5% different from those of Gambierdiscus sp. C-1, a strain that was isolated from the waters off eastern Japan, but was 2.4–4.0% different from those of the NOAA strains of G. caribaeus and 3.1–3.4% different from those of the NOAA strains of G. carpenteri. Additionally, the D1–D3 large subunit (LSU) rDNA sequence of the Korean strain of G. caribaeus was 4.7–5.3% different from those of the NOAA strains of G. caribaeus and 7.1–7.5% different from those of all reported G. carpenteri strains, including the NOAA strains. In phylogenetic trees based on SSU and LSU rDNA sequences, our Korean strain was basal to the clade consisting of the NOAA strains of G. caribaeus, which in turn was sister clade to all reported G. carpenteri strains.