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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 445:109-116 (2012)  -  DOI:

Widespread occurrence of endophytic Labyrinthula spp. in northern European eelgrass Zostera marina beds

Anna-Christina Bockelmann1,*, Katrin Beining2, Thorsten B. H. Reusch2

1Experimental Ecology−Food webs and 2Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR), Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany

ABSTRACT: Seagrasses worldwide are commonly infected by endophytic protists of the genus Labyrinthula. To date, the nature of the interaction of endophyte and host is not well understood. In eelgrass Zostera marina, the endophyte Labyrinthula zosterae may become virulent (pathogenic) and lead to the loss of entire seagrass beds. One of the best known examples of any marine epidemic was a series of outbreaks of the ‘wasting disease’ on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1930s, but smaller infestations have been reported more recently. Until now, detection of infection by Labyrinthula spp. was based on the wasting index (i.e. the relative area of leaf lesions) or microscopy, while genetic data were virtually absent. We characterized a ~1400 bp portion of the 18S small subunit rDNA in L. zosterae isolates (N = 41) from 6 northern European sites and 1 southern location (Adriatic Sea) in order to assess the identity and potential diversity of endophytic protists. Because there are indications that low salinity impedes Labyrinthula growth, sampling sites included a wide range of salinities from 5 to 34 psu. A search against the non-redundant GenBank database revealed that most isolates are 99% similar to the only L. zosterae 18S sequence available from the database at all but the Finnish site (salinity values 5 to 7 psu). At this site, a different Labyrinthula species occurred, which was also found in fully marine Wadden Sea cultures. A third species was detected in Skagerrak, south-western Baltic and North Sea samples (20 to 25 psu). We conclude that L. zosterae is widespread among northern European eelgrass sites across wide ranges of salinity.

KEY WORDS: Labyrinthula infection · Eelgrass · 18S sequence analysis · Salinity · Wasting disease

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Cite this article as: Bockelmann AC, Beining K, Reusch TBH (2012) Widespread occurrence of endophytic Labyrinthula spp. in northern European eelgrass Zostera marina beds. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 445:109-116.

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