DAO 70:243-250 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao070243

Influence of salinity on prevalence of the parasite Loxothylacus panopaei in the xanthid Panopeus obesus in SW Florida

S. Gregory Tolley1,*, James T. Winstead2, Lesli Haynes1, Aswani K. Volety1

1Florida Gulf Coast University, Coastal Watershed Institute, 10501 FGCU Boulevard South, Fort Myers, Florida 33965-6565, USA
2United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, 1 Sabine Island Drive, Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561, USA

ABSTRACT: This study was conducted to examine the potential influence of salinity, a proxy for freshwater inflow, on the prevalence of the castrator parasite Loxothylacus panopaei on saltmarsh mud crabs Panopeus obesus on SW Florida oyster reefs. Spatial and seasonal patterns of the presence of potential host crabs and the prevalence of the parasite were assessed in the Caloosahatchee, Estero, and Faka Union estuaries. Lift nets (1 m2) containing 5 l of oyster clusters were deployed on intertidal reefs at 3 sites along the salinity gradient of each estuary. Nets were deployed during 3 seasonally dry and 3 seasonally wet months for a period of 30 d. P. obesus densities tended to increase downstream in higher salinity waters, with crabs being absent from the upper station in the Caloosahatchee during both seasons and absent from the upper station of the Faka Union during wet months. Parasite prevalence was reduced upstream in each estuary during wet months compared to dry months, and for those estuaries that experienced higher relative levels of freshwater inflow. Furthermore, parasite prevalence was positively correlated with the mean salinity of capture of host crabs. Based on the distribution of P. obesus and the above patterns related to salinity, it appears that freshwater inflow and seasonal rains might regulate the prevalence of this parasite in SW Florida by creating spatiotemporal, low salinity refuges for its host.

KEY WORDS: Loxothylacus panopaei · Panopeus obesus · Xanthidae · Parasite · Salinity

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