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Infection dynamics of an oyster parasite in its newly expanded range
Ford, S.E.; Smolowitz, R. (2007). Infection dynamics of an oyster parasite in its newly expanded range. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 151(1): 119-133.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Ford, S.E.
  • Smolowitz, R.

    Over a 2-year period in 1990 and 1991, coincident with a pronounced warming episode, Dermo disease outbreaks in the oyster, Crassostrea virginica, caused by the parasite Perkinsus marinus, occurred over a 500-km range from Delaware Bay to Cape Cod, in the northeastern United States. The parasite had not previously been recorded or known to cause mortalities in this region. To document infection patterns and levels in this region several years after the initial outbreaks, and to compare them with those in the parasite’s historic southern range, we deployed and sampled oysters from 1996 to 1998 at multiple sites spanning the expanded range. During this 2-year period, the parasite was documented to occur in oysters at high prevalences throughout the new range, in sites varying from small, enclosed embayments to large estuaries, and in both cultured and wild-set oysters. Infection and mortality patterns, and levels were similar to those in southern locations where the parasite has been enzootic for at least decades. The persistence of high P. marinus infection levels in the new range after the initial expansion is probably due to several factors: (1) winter temperatures continued to increase during the 1990s and early 2000s, albeit at a slower rate than in 1990–1991, facilitating overwinter survival of the parasite; (2) many oyster-growing sites in the northeast are in relatively shallow water in which summer temperatures offer ample time for the parasite to proliferate and spread; and (3) the combination of high parasite burdens and high host densities in oyster farms results in an abundance of parasites and high transmission rates. Colder winters and high rainfall after 2002 reduced prevalences in some regions, but P. marinus can survive low temperatures and low salinities, and epizootic conditions are likely to return if temperatures rise again, as predicted by climate-change models.

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