DAO 73:151-158 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao073151

Perkinsus marinus in coastal Georgia, USA, following a prolonged drought

A. Power1,*, B. McCrickard1, M. Mitchell1, E. Covington1, M. Sweeney-Reeves1, K. Payne2, R. Walker1

1University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, Shellfish Research Laboratory, 20 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Georgia 31411-1011, USA
2University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, 220 Marine Sciences Building, Athens, Georgia 30602-3636, USA

ABSTRACT: Oysters Crassostrea virginica are ‘keystone’ estuarine species in the southeastern USA, providing essential fish habitat, food for human consumption, filtration of water bodies, and protection against shoreline erosion. Relatively few oyster pathology studies have been conducted in Georgia. The parasitic protozoan Perkinsus marinus was first observed here in the 1960s, but has not been investigated since the late 1990s, when increasing oyster infection levels were apparent. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the region suffered a prolonged drought, resulting in elevated salinities and the proliferation of various diseases in the marine environment. By 2003, salinities had returned to normal levels, but the effect of the drought on oysters was unknown. In June 2003, oyster reefs throughout Chatham County were sampled to evaluate the prevalence and intensity of P. marinus. The disease appears to have remained prevalent in the coastal waters of Georgia (100% prevalence at some sites), but the intensity was low, ranging from 0 to 1.83 on a scale where heavy infections rated a score of 5. While the disease did not occur at levels high enough to cause oyster mortalities, further monitoring, particularly on a temporal scale, is warranted.

KEY WORDS: Oyster · Perkinsus marinus · Prevalence · Intensity · Drought · Georgia

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