The variability of toxigenic phytoplankton and the consequent uptake and loss of toxins by the mussel Choromytilus meridionalis was investigated in the southern Benguela at the event scale (3-10 days) in response to the upwelling-downwelling cycle. Phytoplankton and mussel samples were collected daily (20 March-11 April 2007) from a mooring station (32.04 degrees S; 18.26 degrees E) located 3.5 km offshore of Lambert's Bay, within the St Helena Bay region. Rapid changes in phytoplankton assemblages incorporated three groups of toxigenic phytoplankton: (1) the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella; (2) several species of Dinophysis, including Dinophysis acuminata, Dinophysis fortii, Dinophysis hastata and Dinophysis rotundata; and (3) members of the diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia. Analysis of phytoplankton concentrates by LC-MS/MS or LC-FD provided information on the toxin composition and calculated toxicity of each group. Several additional in vitro assays were used for the analysis of toxins in mussels (ELISA, RBA, MBA for PSP toxins; and ELISA for DSP toxins). Good correspondence was observed between methods except for the MBA, which provided significantly lower (approximately 2-fold) estimates of PSP toxins. PSP and DSP toxins both exceeded the regulatory limits in Choromytilis meridionalis, but ASP toxins were undetected. Differences were observed in the composition of both PSP and DSP toxins in C meridionalis from that of the ingested dinoflagellates (PSP toxins showed an increase in SIX, C1,2, and traces of dcSTX and GTX1,4 and a decrease in NEO; DSP toxins showed an increased in DTX1, and traces of PTX2sa, and a decrease in OA). The rate of loss of PSP toxins following dispersal of the A. catenella boom was 0.12 d(-1). Variation in the loss rates of different PSP toxins contributed to the change in toxin profile in C. meridionalis. Prediction of net toxicity in shellfish of the nearshore environment in the southern Benguela is limited due to rapid phytoplankton community changes, high variability in cellular toxicity, and the selective uptake and loss of toxins, and/or transformation of toxins.