Mortality and Morbidity Associated with a New Ciliate Infection of Shrimp that Causes Shrimp Black Gill in the Coastal Southeast USA

Ashleigh Rene Price, Savannah State University, Marine Science, Savannah, GA, United States, Amy E Fowler, South Carloina Department of Natural Rescources; South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Robin L Frede, College of Charleston and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Anna N Walker, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA, United States, Richard F Lee, University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marc Emil Frischer, University of Georgia, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Savannah, GA, United States
Penaeid shrimp including Litopenaeus setiferus (white shrimp), Farfantepenaeus aztecus (brown shrimp), and Farfantepenaeus duorarum (pink shrimp) support the most valuable commercial marine fishery in the US Southeast Atlantic. However, since the mid 1990’s the fishery has experienced a significant decline in reported harvest. Although decreased fishing effort has contributed to this decline, the decline has been coincident with the emergence of a new ciliate infection causing gill tissue melanization with evidence of tissue necrosis (Black Gill). The identity of the shrimp Black Gill (sBG) ciliate is still uncertain but is uniquely identified molecularly and microscopically. sBG is widely believed by the shrimping industry to have contributed to the decline of shrimp populations in Georgia and South Carolina, USA where prevalence can reach near 100% in the fall white shrimp season and is associated with large catches of dead and deteriorating shrimp along with soft and recently molted shrimp. In this study we report the first observations of mortality and morbidity associated with sBG ciliate infections in L. setiferus. The sBG ciliate is present from approximately May through January with peak infection rates and visibly melanized gills occurring in the late summer through the fall. Molecular and histological studies indicate that the sBG ciliate is absent from shrimp populations during the winter and spring. In laboratory studies, significant direct mortality of shrimp associated with sBG is observed only for a short period of time during the late summer. However, later in the fall symptomatic shrimp exhibit decreased performance response (endurance and respiratory capacity) that likely leads to increased mortality associated with secondary infections and increased predation rates. These studies support the hypothesis that shrimp Black Gill is negatively impacting wild shrimp populations and the fishery.