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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 135:77-88 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03373

Epidemiology of skin ulceration disease in wild sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis, a new aquaculture target species

F. Cánovas*, J. A. Domínguez-Godino, M. González-Wangüemert

Centro de Ciências do Mar, University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Interest in wildlife epidemiology has increased in recent years. The control of diseases is critical for the survival of natural populations of economically valuable species. The present study is the first investigation of the etiology and epidemiology of skin ulceration disease in the sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis, a new target species for fisheries and aquaculture in Europe. Bacterial cultures and molecular techniques were used to characterize this disease in animals collected during a survey across Ría Formosa Natural Park coastal lagoon in southern Portugal. Vibrio gigantis and V. crassostreae, which were both originally identified as disease agents in cultured oysters, were the most commonly isolated species of bacteria. Given that both sampling areas from which symptomatic H. arguinensis were collected were close to open oyster aquaculture facilities, this raises the possibility of an opportunistic infection, perhaps secondary to a decreased immune response caused by biotic or abiotic factors. An increase in prevalence of skin ulceration disease during the warmer season suggests that solar radiation and desiccation due to air exposure during low tide could be a cause of abiotic stress in the lagoon. Distributions of abundance and sizes of H. arguinensis in affected areas showed highest morbidity rates in adults. High fishery pressures throughout the study period could also cause elevations in prevalence and incidence rate of this disease. Skin ulcerative disease is endemic in this coastal lagoon. Disease monitoring is thus essential for the development of a conservation program to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and protection of natural resources.


KEY WORDS: Invertebrates · Vibrio · Prevalence · Incidence rate · Endemicity


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Cite this article as: Cánovas F, Domínguez-Godino JA, González-Wangüemert M (2019) Epidemiology of skin ulceration disease in wild sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis, a new aquaculture target species. Dis Aquat Org 135:77-88. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03373

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