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Horizontal transmission of Thelohania contejeani in the endangered white-clawed (Austropotamobius pallipes) and the invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2012

EMILY M. IMHOFF
Affiliation:
Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
ROBERT J. G. MORTIMER
Affiliation:
School of Earth and the Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
MARTIN CHRISTMAS
Affiliation:
Environment Agency, Phoenix House, Global Avenue, Millshaw LS11 8PG, UK
ALISON M. DUNN*
Affiliation:
Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
*
*Corresponding author: Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK. Tel: +44 (0)113 3432856. Fax: +44 (0)113 3432835. E-mail:a.dunn@leeds.ac.uk

Summary

The microsporidian parasite Thelohania contejeani causes porcelain disease and has been implicated in mass mortalities in populations of the endangered European crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes. However, the route of parasite transmission is not known. This paper investigates the horizontal transmission of T. contejeani between A. pallipes hosts as well as its transmissibility to the invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus). Field collected juvenile A. pallipes and P. leniusculus were assigned to 1 of 3 experimental treatments; fed heavily infected A. pallipes tissue, exposed to water from tanks housing heavily parasitized A. pallipes, and a control group to provide an estimate of the baseline infection levels in the field. After 26 weeks, abdominal muscle samples were screened by PCR for T. contejeani. Infection was significantly higher in the treatment groups (83% in the cannibalism treatment, 42% in the water exposure treatment) than in the control group (4%), providing evidence for horizontal transmission of the parasite between A. pallipes hosts. Cannibalism and scavenging are common amongst crayfish, providing transmission opportunities in the field. The study also provides the first direct evidence for transmission of the parasite from an indigenous European crayfish species to the invasive signal crayfish, with 50% of P. leniusculus in each treatment, and 8% of control animals infected. We discuss the possibility that high density populations of the invasive signal crayfish may serve either as reservoirs or sinks for the parasite.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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