Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Phenological mismatchmaladaptive changes in phenology resulting from altered timing of environmental cuesis an increasing concern in many ecological systems, yet its effects on disease are poorly characterized. American lobster (Homarus americanus) is declining at its southern geographic limit. Rising seawater temperatures are associated with seasonal outbreaks of epizootic shell disease (ESD), which peaks in prevalence in the fall. We used a 34-year mark-recapture data set to investigate relationships between temperature, molting phenology, and ESD in Long Island Sound, where temperatures are increasing at 0.4 degrees C per decade. Our analyses support the hypothesis that phenological mismatch is linked to the epidemiology of ESD. Warming spring temperatures are correlated with earlier spring molting. Lobsters lose diseased cuticle by molting, and early molting increases the intermolt period in the summer, when disease prevalence is increasing to a fall peak. In juvenile and adult male lobsters, September ESD prevalence was correlated with early molting, while October ESD prevalence was correlated with summer seawater temperature. This suggests that temperature-induced molting phenology affects the timing of the onset of ESD, but later in the summer this signal is swamped by the stronger signal of summer temperatures, which we hypothesize are associated with an increased rate of new infections. October ESD prevalence was approximate to 80% in years with hot summers and approximate to 30% in years with cooler summers. Yearly survival of diseased lobsters is
disease prevalence; disease impacts; life history; Crustacea; phenology; molting
Groner, Maya; Shields, Jeffrey D.; Landers, DF; Swenarton, J; and Hoenig, JM, Rising Temperatures, Molting Phenology, and Epizootic Shell Disease in the American Lobster (2018). American Naturalist, 192(5), E163-E177.