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Literature Review of the Microalga Prymnesium parvum and its Associated Toxicity

Sean Watson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, August 2001

For those wishing to print this document, we have provided a downloadable version media download(PDF 773 KB).


Recent large-scale fish kills associated with the golden-alga, Prymnesium parvum, have imposed monetary and ecological losses on the state of Texas. This phytoflagellate has been implicated in fish kills around the world since the 1930’s (Reichenbach-Klinke 1973). Kills due to P. parvum blooms are normally accompanied by water with a golden-yellow coloration that foams in riffles (Rhodes and Hubbs 1992). The factors responsible for the appearance of toxic P. parvum blooms have yet to be determined.

The purpose of this paper is to present a review of the work by those around the globe whom have worked with Prymnesium parvum in an attempt to better understand the biology and ecology of this organism as well as its associated toxicity. I will concentrate on the relevant biology important in the ecology and identification of this organism, its occurrence, nutritional requirements, factors governing its toxicity, and methods used to control toxic blooms with which it is associated.

Background Biology and Diagnostic Features

Aditional Information:

Would you like to know more?
The Biology of Golden Alga summarizes what we know about the alga and its toxins.

Where does golden alga fit compared to other single-celled organisms?
The Golden Alga Family Tree gives examples of and information about golden alga and other protists.

What does golden alga look like?
TPWD Golden Alga Images has photos of fish kills, golden algal cells, and short videos of live golden alga. These images may be used for noncommercial/educational purposes as long as TPWD is given credit and other site policies are followed.

Golden Alga Information Card: TPWD has collaborated with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and other entities to produce a golden alga information card. Download a PDF from the TCEQ website or request a free hard copy from TPWD at

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