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Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology

KIOST Discovers New Species of Dinoflagellate with Potential Use as Marine Biomaterial

  • HITS : 19597
  • Date : 2023-01-10
Fig. 1. Morphology of Gonyaulax geomunensis observed under a scanning electron microscope 바로보기

The Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) has discovered a new species of dinoflagellate* in the waters of Geomundo Island. The discovery was published in the International Journal of Ornithology (Phycologia),** naming it Gonyaulax geomunensis after the island.

*Phytoplankton that can swim with two flagella.

**Shin Hyeon-ho and Shin Kyoungsoon, et al., KIOST, December 2022 (Title: Gonyaulax geomunensis sp. nov. and two allied species (Gonyaulacales, Dinophyceae) from Korean coastal waters and East China Sea: morphology, phylogeny and growth response to changes in temperature and salinity)


Dr. Shin Hyeon-ho’s research team at the KIOST South Sea Research Institute’s Library of Marine Samples has been conducting research on the phylogenetic classification and biomass of marine phytoplankton in Korean waters with the aim of discovering useful materials based on physiologically-active substances in marine phytoplankton.


In 2021, his research team discovered plankton that produces ciguatoxin* in the waters of Jeju Island, which they named Fukuyoa Koreansis after their country’s name. This time, however, they discovered a new species of the genus Gonyaulax that produces yessotoxin,** which they named after the island where it was discovered, Geomundo.

* Ciguatoxin: a type of neurotoxin produced by dinoflagellates that causes nerve cell activation and convulsions and is known to induce diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms, and in severe cases, death when ingested by humans.

** Yessotoxin: a toxin that was first discovered in the digestive glands of Japanese scallops in 1986. When human’s ingest shellfish contaminated by this poison, it causes symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Recently, it has been found to adversely affect the liver, pancreas, and heart muscle.


The new species, Gonyaulax geomunensis, was discovered by the research team while they were participating in a joint excavation of marine life resources conducted by the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea. It is currently preserved and managed at the KIOST South Sea Research Institute, which has been designated by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) as an institution responsible for registering and preserving samples of marine plants and plankton.*

* Designated and managed by the MOF to carry out tasks such as securing, preserving, and selling resources that form the foundation of the marine biotech industry (16 samples as of March 2021).


The Korean government announced its vision to foster the marine biotech industry at the National Oceans Day event in May 2022, which was followed by an announcement by the MOF on the establishment of the New Growth Strategy for the Marine Biotech Industry in July the same year. Along with the growing marine biotech market, active research is underway on marine bioresources containing substances, such as toxins, that can be used as pharmaceutical materials, and the importance of the management and utilization of marine bioresources is being increasingly recognized worldwide with the validation of the Nagoya Protocol.*

* Nagoya Protocol: an international agreement stipulating that the use of foreign genetic resources requires prior approval from the country providing the resources and the sharing of profits generated from the use of such resources (effective from October 2014).


KIOST Senior Researcher Dr. Shin said, “We have completed the evaluation of the cultivation potential of Gonyaulax geomunensis, and are carrying out an evaluation on the feasibility and utility of the production of the toxin for industrial use through joint research with Dr. Li Zhun’s research team at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology.” He went on to add, “We will continue doing our best to strengthen the competitiveness of the Korean Biotech industry.”


“This is a significant accomplishment as it not only promotes the uniqueness of Korea’s geographical names to the world, but also contributes to securing national biological sovereignty following the validation of the Nagoya Protocol,” added KIOST President Kim Woong-seo. “KIOST will keep working hard to secure marine biological resources, including discovering new and unrecorded species, and establish the marine biotech industry as a new source of national growth.”




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Last Update : 2022-11-14