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Free Content A Review of Ciguatera, Tropical Fish Poisoning, with a Tentative Explanation of its Cause

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The categories of fish poisoning as proposed by Halstead and Lively (1954) are revised. An attempt is made to document what appear to be the established phenomena of ciguatera, an illness of occasional occurrence following the ingestion of various tropical reef and inshore fishes and possibly certain echinoids and gastropods. The toxin appears to be cumulative and the most toxic fishes, generally, are large piscivorous types like barracuda, jacks, and groupers. Plankton-feeding fishes have not been implicated in ciguatera. Herbivorous and detritus-feeding fishes and mollusk-feeders may be poisonous. Fishes causing ciguatera are not found universally over large areas, but are localized, often in small sectors. A region once poisonous may lose its poisonous fishes and vice versa. Previous theories of the cause of ciguatera are discussed, and a new hypothesis is presented. In this, it is assumed that a benthic organism, most likely a blue-green alga, is the source of the toxin. This organism would seem to be one of the first growing in normal ecological succession in tropic seas. The localization of poisonous fishes is explained in terms of availability of new substratum for marine growth. Recommendations are made for further reasearch on ciguatera.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1958-01-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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