A new pathogenic virus in the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus from the Florida Keys

ME Ward
JD Shields
CL Van Dover


Bivalve species, especially mussels, are biomass dominants in many deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems. As in shallow-water environments, parasites are likely to be important factors in the population dynamics of bivalve communities in chemosynthetic ecosystems, but there has been little study of parasitism in deep-sea seep or vent molluscs. In this study, Parasite types, diversity, prevalence, infection density and non-infectious indicators of stress or disease as related to host age, reproductive condition, and endosymbiont density were assessed in mussels (Bathmodiolus heckerae) from 2 seep sites and mussels (B. puteoserpentis) from 2 vent sites. We identified 10 microbial or parasitic agents in histological sections. Parasite types included 3 viral-like gut inclusions. 2 rickettsia-like gill inclusions, a rickettsia-like mantle inclusion, a bacterial gill-rosette, a chlamydia-like gut inclusion, gill-dwelling ciliates, and an unidentified inclusion in gut tissues. Parasite species richness was greater in seep mussels than in vent mussels, with the seep mussels possessing 9 types of parasites compared to 2 in the vent mussels. One of the viral-like inclusions infecting the seep mussel B. heckerae was pathogenic, causing lysis of the digestive tubules. The prevalence and intensity of infection by this pathogen were greater in hosts with shell lengths less than 100 mm. Mussels from all 4 sites also exhibited intense infiltration of tissues and blood spaces by enlarged hemocytes. Hemocytic infiltration (hemocytosis) showed variable degrees of severity that were not associated with other host factors examined.