Skip to main content

Temperature induced disease in the starfish Astropecten jonstoni

  • Annette Staehli (a1), Rolf Schaerer (a2), Katharina Hoelzle (a3) and Georg Ribi (a1)

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the effects of water temperature changes on the structure of marine populations. During the 1970s the burrowing starfish Astropecten jonston was present in large numbers along the south-east of Sardinia (Italy). When investigations were resumed in 1999 fewer active individuals could be found than in the 1970s, with anecdotal evidence suggesting an increase in sightings of dying animals on the sand surface. These observations, combined with a hitherto unknown susceptibility to handling stress, caused us to investigate the effect of water temperature, salinity and individual size on A. jonstoni survival. Results indicated that significantly fewer starfish were affected by a wasting disease when kept at 12°C compared with individuals maintained at 20°C and 25°C regardless of salinity (28 or 35 ppt) and that smaller starfish were less affected. Microbiological analysis revealed that, amongst other species, bacteria of the genus Vibrio, which have been associated with diseases of stressed marine invertebrates, were present in both field and laboratory animals.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Annette Staehli, Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland email:
Hide All
Baulch, H.M., Schindler, D.W., Turner, M.A., Findlay, D.L. and Paterson, M.J. (2005) Effects of warming on benthic communities in a boreal lake: implications of climate change. Limnology and Oceanography 50, 13771392.
Becker, P., Gillan, D., Lanterbecq, D., Jangoux, M., Rasolofonirina, R., Rakotovao, J. and Eeckhaut, I. (2004) The skin ulceration disease in cultivated juveniles of Holothuria scabra (Holothuroidea, Echinodermata). Aquaculture 242, 1330.
Boyett, H.V., Bourne, D.G. and Willis, L.B. (2007) Elevated temperature and light enhance progression and spread of black band disease on staghorn corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 151, 17111720.
Bruno, J.F., Selig, E.R., Casey, K.S., Page, C.A., Willis, B.L., Harvell, C.D., Sweatman, H. and Melendy, A.M. (2007) Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks. PLoS Biology 5, 12201227.
Chomsky, O., Kamenir, Y., Hyams, M., Dubinsky, Z. and Chadwick-Furman, N.E. (2004) Effects of temperature on growth rate and body size in the Mediterranean Sea anemone Actinia equine. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 313, 6373.
Eckert, G.L., Engle, J.M. and Kushner, D.J. (2000) Sea star disease and population declines at the Channel Islands. In Browne, D.R. et al. (eds) Proceedings of the fifth California Islands symposium. US Minerals Management Service, pp. 390393.
Farto, R., Armada, S.P., Montes, M., Guisande, J.A., Perez, M.J. and Nieto, T.P. (2003) Vibrio lentus associated with diseased wild octopus (Octopus vulgaris). Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 83, 149156.
Ferlin-Lubini, V. and Ribi, G. (1978) Daily activity pattern of Astropecten aranciacus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) and two related species under natural conditions. Helgoländer Wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchung 31, 117127.
Harvell, C.D., Mitchell, C.E., Ward, J.R., Altizer, S., Dobson, A.P., Ostfeld, R.S. and Samuel, M.D. (2002) Climate warming and disease risks for terrestrial and marine biota. Science 296, 21582162.
Kaspar, C.W. and Tamplin, M.L. (1993) Effects of temperature and salinity on the survival of Vibrio vulnificus in seawater and shellfish. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 59, 24252429.
Kushmaro, A., Banin, E., Stackebrandt, E. and Rosenberg, E. (2001) Vibrio shiloi sp. nov.: the causative agent of bleaching of the coral Oculina patagonica. International Journal of Systematic Evolutionary Microbiology 51, 13381388.
Lawrence, A.J. and Soame, J.M. (2004) The effect of climate change on the reproduction of coastal invertebrates. Ibis 146, 2939.
Mouritsen, K.N. and Poulin, R. (2002) Parasitism, climate oscillations and the structure of natural communities. Oikos 97, 462468.
Perez, T., Garrabou, J., Sartoretto, S., Harmelin, J.G., Francour, P. and Vacelet, J. (2000) Mortalité massive d'invertébrés marins: un événement sans précédent en Méditerranée nord-occidentale. Life Science 323, 853865.
Pfeffer, C.S., Hite, M.F. and Oliver, J.D. (2003) Ecology of Vibrio vulnificus in estuarine waters of eastern North Carolina. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 698, 35263531.
Remily, E.R. and Richardson, L.L. (2006) Ecological physiology of a coral pathogen and the coral reef environment. Microbial Ecology 51, 345352.
Ribi, G., Burla, H. and Ochsner, P. (1976) Beobachtungen über Vorkommen, Abundanz und Körpergrössen von mediterranen Arten der Gattung Astropecten. Helgoländer Wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen 28, 415427.
Sabaté, A., Martin, P., Lloret, J. and Raya, V. (2006) Sea warming and fish distribution: the case of the small pelagic fish, Sardinella aurita, in the western Mediterranean. Global Change Biology 12, 22092219.
Salat, J. and Pascual, J. (2002) The oceanographic and meteorological station at l'Estartit (NW Mediterranean) In Tracking long-term hydrological change in the Mediterranean Sea. CIESM Workshop Series 16, 2932.
Stenseth, N.C., Mysterud, A., Ottersen, G., Hurrell, J.W., Chan, K.S. and Lima, M. (2002) Ecological effects of climate fluctuations. Science 297, 12921296.
Ward, J.R., Kim, K. and Harvell, C.D. (2007) Temperature affects coral disease resistance and pathogen growth. Marine Ecology Progress Series 329, 115121.
Webster, N.S. (2007) Sponge disease: a global threat? Environmental Microbiology 9, 13631375.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Marine Biodiversity Records
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 1755-2672
  • URL: /core/journals/marine-biodiversity-records
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed