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Laboratory studies on the effect of temperature on epizootic shell disease in the American lobster, Homarus americanus

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Epizootic shell disease (ESD) is a persistent threat to the population of American lobsters, Homarus americanus H. Milne-Edwards, 1837, in Long Island Sound and off southern New England, USA. ESD is caused by a bacterial dysbiosis that occurs in association with increased water temperature and exposure to anthropogenic stressors. Temperature is a leading factor driving the severity and incidence of ESD. Our objective was to quantify disease progression and dynamics in relation to host molting and mortality at three rigorously controlled temperatures (6, 12, and 18 °C) over a 5–6-mo period. Lobsters were photographed at various time points and image analysis was used to examine changes in lesion development over time. The disease progressed at all three experimental temperatures, but it had a significantly faster growth rate at 18 °C. Mean progression rates varied from 8.6–10.4 mm2 d–1 at the lower temperatures to >25.6 mm2 d–1 at 18 °C. The mean daily growth rates give conservative estimates for individual progression from light to moderate disease states; i.e., approximately 233 d at 6 °C and 95 d at 18 °C. We show that increased temperature leads to rapid progression of ESD, but individual variation, presumably modulated through immune defenses, can slow the disease and possibly enhance survival of affected lobsters.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062 2: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062;, Email: [email protected] 3: Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, 1213 Purchase St., New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740 4: Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, 30 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930

Publication date: 01 July 2018

This article was made available online on 16 April 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Laboratory studies on the effect of temperature on epizootic shell disease in the American lobster Homarus americanus".

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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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