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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 62:1-16 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao062001

Parasitism in species of Bathymodiolus (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) mussels from deep-sea seep and hydrothermal vents

Megan E. Ward1,*, Jeffrey D. Shields2, Cindy L. Van Dover1

1Department of Biology, The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185, USA
2Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA

ABSTRACT: Bivalve species, especially mussels, are biomass dominants in many deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems. As in shallow-water environments, parasites are likely to be important factors in the population dynamics of bivalve communities in chemosynthetic ecosystems, but there has been little study of parasitism in deep-sea seep or vent molluscs. In this study, parasite types, diversity, prevalence, infection density and non-infectious indicators of stress or disease as related to host age, reproductive condition, and endosymbiont density were assessed in mussels (Bathymodiolus heckerae) from 2 seep sites and mussels (B. puteoserpentis) from 2 vent sites. We identified 10 microbial or parasitic agents in histological sections. Parasite types included 3 viral-like gut inclusions, 2 rickettsia-like gill inclusions, a rickettsia-like mantle inclusion, a bacterial gill-rosette, a chlamydia-like gut inclusion, gill-dwelling ciliates, and an unidentified inclusion in gut tissues. Parasite species richness was greater in seep mussels than in vent mussels, with the seep mussels possessing 9 types of parasites compared to 2 in the vent mussels. One of the viral-like inclusions infecting the seep mussel B. heckerae was pathogenic, causing lysis of the digestive tubules. The prevalence and intensity of infection by this pathogen were greater in hosts with shell lengths less than 100 mm. Mussels from all 4 sites also exhibited intense infiltration of tissues and blood spaces by enlarged hemocytes. Hemocytic infiltration (hemocytosis) showed variable degrees of severity that were not associated with other host factors examined.

KEY WORDS: Chemosynthetic ecosystems · Mollusc · Virus · Pathogenicity · Community ecology · Parasite ecology · Endosymbiotic bacteria · Commensal polychaetes

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