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Development of rapid diagnostic techniques for idiopathic blindness in the American lobster, Homarus americanus, from eastern Long Island Sound

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Idiopathic blindness is a condition that afflicts approximately 50% of the lobsters, Homarus americanus H. Milne-Edwards, 1837, in Long Island Sound (LIS). The condition occurs in lobsters from LIS and Narragansett Bay, but has lower prevalence levels in the Gulf of Maine. Grossly, the condition presents as patches of cloudy, gray-colored regions in the eyes of afflicted animals. Histologically, the ommatidia show signs of altered pigment distribution, necrosis of the optic nerves and rhabdoms, and hemocyte infiltration through the protective basement membrane separating the ommatidia from the optic nerves. Severe lesions show areas with necrotic ommatidia and nearly complete loss of the underlying associated optic nerves. We assessed a rapid, nondestructive, diagnostic technique for determining blindness in lobsters. We compared the use of an otolaryngoscope (o-scope) with stereomicroscopy on live, frozen, and histologically-fixed eyes. Live lobsters from Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and off southern Massachusetts were assessed with the o-scope. Right eyes were analyzed via standard histological procedures. Left eyes were frozen and stored at –80 °C, and later thawed and reassessed for blindness. The o-scope had good sensitivity and specificity in diagnosing blindness in the laboratory with good inter-observer comparisons among trained staff. Initial results indicate that the etiological agent of idiopathic blindness is present throughout a large portion of the sound, and that lobsters are probably continually exposed to it. The use of the o-scope as a diagnostic tool will help us better understand the distribution of idiopathic blindness in lobsters from the New England region.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062 2: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062;, Email: [email protected] 3: University of Rhode Island Fisheries Center, East Farm Road, Building 83, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881

Publication date: 01 July 2018

This article was made available online on 11 April 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Development of rapid diagnostic techniques for idiopathic blindness in the American lobster, Homarus americanus, from eastern Long Island Sound".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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