Environmental Stress and Pathogen Dynamics in the Blue Crab Callinectes sapidus

Timothy James Sullivan1, Joe Neigel1 and Carey G Gelpi2, (1)University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Biology, Lafayette, LA, United States, (2)Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States
The blue crab Callinectes sapidus is an ecologically and economically valuable species along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of North America. Throughout its range, the blue crab encounters a diverse array of parasitic and pathogenic microorganisms that have episodic and occasionally severe impacts on population numbers and viability. This makes understanding factors that influence pathogen dynamics, such as host stress, an important priority. To explore the role of environmental stress on the susceptibility of blue crabs to pathogens we screened individuals collected during the summers of 2014 and 2015 for a number of infectious agents. We sampled three life stages (megalopae, juvenile, and adult) from multiple marsh and offshore locations in Louisiana. Duration of stressful environmental conditions at each location was quantified from hourly recordings provided by the Louisiana Coastwide Reference Monitoring System. Pathogenic microorganisms were detected in crabs from multiple locations and multiple years. Some of the variability in prevalence of infection can be explained by exposure to stressful extremes of temperature and salinity during summer months.