DAO 96:249-258 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02399

Lack of transmission of Hematodinium sp. in the blue crab Callinectes sapidus through cannibalism

Caiwen Li, Kersten N. Wheeler, Jeffrey D. Shields*

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA

ABSTRACT: Hematodinium spp. are parasitic dinoflagellates of marine crustaceans. Outbreaks of Hematodinium sp. have impacted commercial landings of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus in the coastal bays of Virginia and Maryland (USA), with seasonal peaks in prevalence reaching 85%. The life cycle and transmission routes of the parasite in blue crabs are poorly understood. Cannibalism and waterborne transmission may be routes of transmission, although little conclusive evidence has been reported for these modes. We examined cannibalism as a route by a series of experiments wherein we repeatedly fed adult and juvenile crabs the tissues of crabs infected with Hematodinium. In each experiment, feeding was done 3 times over the course of 1 wk. Only 2 of 120 crabs were infected within 7 to 9 d after feeding, and these 2 were likely infected prior to the experimental exposures. Crabs inoculated with hemolymph from infected donors served as positive controls. They developed infections over 11 to 21 d, indicating that the Hematodinium sp. used in the cannibalism trials was infectious at the time of inoculation. Because amphipods also harbor Hematodinium-like infections, we fed tissues of infected crabs to the estuarine amphipod Leptocheirus plumulosus. Hematodinium DNA was detected in amphipods shortly after feeding, but not in animals held for longer periods, nor was it observed in histological preparations. Amphipods did not obtain infections by scavenging infected crab tissues. Our results show that Hematodinium sp. is not effectively transmitted through ingestion of diseased tissues, indicating that cannibalism may not be a major route of transmission for Hematodinium sp. in blue crabs.


KEY WORDS: Parasite · Dinoflagellate · Disease · Amphipod · Crustacea · Scavenger


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Cite this article as: Li C, Wheeler KN, Shields JD (2011) Lack of transmission of Hematodinium sp. in the blue crab Callinectes sapidus through cannibalism. Dis Aquat Org 96:249-258. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02399

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