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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 153:17-29 (2023)  -  DOI:

Mass mortality of collector urchins Tripneustes gratilla in Hawai`i

Thierry M. Work1,*, Julie Dagenais1, Bob Rameyer1, Renee Breeden1, Tina M. Weatherby2

1US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, Honolulu, Hawai`i, USA
2University of Hawai`i, Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Honolulu, Hawai`i, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As grazers, sea urchins are keystone species in tropical marine ecosystems, and their loss can have important ecological ramifications. Die-offs of urchins are frequently described, but their causes are often unclear, in part because systematic examinations of animal tissues at gross and microscopic level are not done. In some areas, urchins are being employed to control invasive marine algae. Here, we describe the pathology of a mortality event in Tripneustes gratilla in Hawai`i where urchins were translocated to control invasive algae. Although we did not determine the cause of the mortality event, our investigation indicates that animals died from inflammation of the test and epidermal ulceration, followed by inability to maintain coelomic fluid volume, colonization of coelomic fluid by opportunists (diatom, algae), and inappetence. Parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses were not evident as a primary cause of death. Pathology was suggestive of a toxin or other environmental cause such as lack of food, possibilities that could be pursued in future investigations. These findings highlight the need for caution and additional tools to better assess health when translocating marine invertebrates to ensure maximal biosecurity.

KEY WORDS: Echinoderm · Pathology · Translocation · Epizootic

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Cite this article as: Work TM, Dagenais J, Rameyer B, Breeden R, Weatherby TM (2023) Mass mortality of collector urchins Tripneustes gratilla in Hawai`i. Dis Aquat Org 153:17-29.

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