Lethal marine snow: Pathogen of bivalve mollusc concealed in marine aggregates

Lyons, M. Maille, J. Evan Ward, Roxanna Smolowitz, Kevin R. Uhlinger, Rebecca J. Gast

Limnol. Oceanogr., 50(6), 2005, 1983-1988 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2005.50.6.1983

ABSTRACT: We evaluated marine aggregates as environmental reservoirs for a thraustochytrid pathogen, Quahog Parasite Unknown (QPX), of the northern quahog or hard clam, Mercenaria mercenaria. Positive results from in situ hybridization and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis confirm the presence of QPX in marine aggregates collected from coastal embayments in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where QPX outbreaks have occurred. In laboratory experiments, aggregates were observed and recorded by entering a quahogÂ’s pallial cavity, thereby delivering embedded particles from the water column to its benthic bivalve host. The occurrence of pathogen-laden aggregates in coastal areas experiencing repeated disease outbreaks suggests a means for the spread and survival of pathogens between epidemics and provides a specific target for environmental monitoring of those pathogens.

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