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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 124:169-179 (2017)  -  DOI:

Disease ecology of Hematodinium perezi in a high salinity estuary: investigating seasonal trends in environmental detection

K. A. Lycett, J. S. Pitula*

University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 1 Backbone Road, 2107 Carver Hall, Princess Anne, Maryland 21853, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The blue crab Callinectes sapidus has seen a general decline in population levels. One factor influencing mortality is infections by Hematodinium perezi, a dinoflagellate parasite. A 2 yr study was conducted in 2014 and 2015 to monitor H. perezi DNA within the Maryland (USA) coastal bays, comparing seasonal cycles in the abundance of parasite DNA in environmental samples to parasite presence in host blue crabs. A late summer to early fall peak in H. perezi infections in blue crabs was observed, consistent with previous work. Infection intensities matched this trend, showing a slow progression of low intensity infections early in the year, with a peak in moderate and heavy infections occurring between July and September, for both years. It was hypothesized that the peak in water column occurrence would coincide with those months when infection intensities were highest in blue crabs. As the peaks in water column occurrence were in July 2014 and August-September 2015, this is consistent with sporulation being the primary contributor to environmental detection in summer months. An additional peak in environmental detection occurred in both years during the early spring months, the cause of which is currently unknown but may be related to infections in overwintering crabs or alternate hosts. Several new crustacean hosts were identified within this estuary, including grass shrimp Palaemonetes spp. and the sand shrimp Crangon septemspinosa, as well as the mud crab Dyspanopeus sayi. Improved knowledge of this disease system will allow for better management of this important fishery.

KEY WORDS: Blue crab · Crustacean · Environment · DNA · quantitative PCR · qPCR

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Cite this article as: Lycett KA, Pitula JS (2017) Disease ecology of Hematodinium perezi in a high salinity estuary: investigating seasonal trends in environmental detection. Dis Aquat Org 124:169-179.

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