DAO 35:81-87 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao035081

Epidemiology and dynamics of shell disease in the edible crab Cancer pagurus: a preliminary study of Langland Bay, Swansea, UK

Claire L. Vogan, Paul J. Llewellyn, Andrew F. Rowley*

*adressee for correspondence. E-mail: a.f.rowley@swansea.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: The prevalence and severity of shell disease in the edible crab Cancer pagurus (L.) was investigated in animals collected from Langland Bay, Gower, South Wales, UK, at monthly intervals from 1997 to 1998. Shell disease is the progressive degradation of exoskeletal chitin accompanied by melanisation of the affected region. Over 50% of the crabs sampled had 1 or more black-spot lesions. The proportion of exoskeleton affected increased with the size of the crab. Male crabs showed significantly higher levels of the disease than females, a higher prevalence of black-spot lesions (63% in males, 40% in females) and a higher mean percentage of body covered by lesions (1% in males, 0.2% in females). This difference between the sexes corresponded to an increase in ventral surface and chela infection in males. For both sexes, the dorsal carapace was the area most affected by the disease. Dorsal carapace regional breakdown revealed the areas most commonly affected were located to the posterior of the crab. Lesion location patterns suggested that sand abrasion injuries during back-burrowing behaviour of C. pagurus lead to the formation of shell disease lesions. Seasonal trends in shell disease were seen to be dependent on the onshore migration patterns of the different size classes and sexes over the sampling period.


KEY WORDS: Shell disease · Chitin degradation · Cancer pagurus · Crustacea


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Cite this article as: Vogan CL, Llewellyn P, Rowley AF (1999) Epidemiology and dynamics of shell disease in the edible crab Cancer pagurus: a preliminary study of Langland Bay, Swansea, UK. Dis Aquat Org 35:81-87

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