Prevalence and distribution of three protozoan symbionts in blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) populations across Louisiana, USA

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Louisiana has one of the largest blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) fisheries in the USA, but little is known about blue crab diseases, parasites, and symbionts in this area. In 2013-2014, large juvenile and adult blue crabs were collected at 4 diverse sites to determine the prevalence of the protozoan symbionts associated with black gill disease (Lagenophrys callinectes), buckshot crabs (Urosporidium crescens), and bitter crab disease (Hematodinium perezi). A high aggregate prevalence of L. callinectes (93.2%) was identified across all seasons at all 4 collection sites regardless of salinity. A moderately low aggregate prevalence of U. crescens (22.4%) was identified across all seasons and sites. Prevalence of U. crescens depended on site salinity, with only 10% of infections detected at sites with <6.3 ppt salinity, and no infections detected at the low salinity site. While L. callinectes and U. crescens are commensal parasites of blue crabs, infections can result in unmarketable and unappealing meat. In the Louisiana fishery, H. perezi has been blamed circumstantially for adult mortalities in the low salinity nearshore fishing grounds. Despite this, H. perezi was not detected in any of the large crabs sampled, even from the low salinity sites. The prevalence data reported here for these 3 protozoans are the first to include blue crabs sampled seasonally at multiple locations along the Louisiana coast over the period of a year.

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Diseases of aquatic organisms

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