In laboratory experiments, oysters (Crassostrea virginica) were fed Alexandrium fundyense (strain CB501) vegetative cells or resting cysts (from strains CB501 and GMT25) produced from laboratory cultures. The toxicity per cyst was 1.7 pg STXequiv/cyst and for vegetative cells 3.9 pg STXequiv/cell. The toxic, resting cysts and vegetative cells were removed from suspension in the experimental containers within about 4 h. Oysters fed toxic vegetative cells digested 72% of cells ingested, and 28% survived gut passage by forming temporary cysts. Toxin levels of oysters fed vegetative cells averaged 27 ?g STXequiv/100 g meat. Resting cysts added to the experimental containers adhered to the walls so that only 40% of the cysts added were available to the oysters during the experiment. Of the cysts that were ingested, approximately 59% were digested, and oysters accumulated toxins (an average of 1.2 ?g STXequiv/100 g meat), showing that consumption of resting cysts can cause toxicity in oysters. Direct consumption of resting cysts, thus, may explain shellfish toxicity in areas without known blooms, but with toxic resting cysts in the sediment. These results suggest a possible role of toxic cysts in mediating time-lags between surface blooms and appearance of toxicity in benthic grazers, and the possible role of benthic grazers in controlling seed populations, except in anoxic areas, which can serve as cyst “refuges” from grazing mortality.