Occurrence of the Parasite Genus Hematodinium (Alveolata: Syndinea) in the Water Column


Corresponding Author: E.C. Roberts, Department of Biosciences, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom—Telephone number: +44 1792 513002; FAX number: +44 1792 295447; e-mail: e.roberts@swansea.ac.uk


ABSTRACT. Crustaceans worldwide are infected with alveolate parasites of the genus Hematodinium, causing substantial losses to langoustine and crab fisheries. The distinct seasonality in Hematodinium occurrence in their decapod hosts, as well as unsuccessful attempts at transmission, suggest the existence of life stages outside their benthic crustacean hosts. We used a nested polymerase chain reaction method to detect Hematodinium rDNA in the environment and in potential alternative hosts. Environmental samples from the Clyde Sea, Scotland, were screened during the April release of dinospores and during June and August, when infection prevalence is rare in benthic crustaceans. Hematodinium rDNA was amplified in 15% (14/94) of isolated langoustine larvae, and in 12% (13/111) of crab larvae. In addition, Hematodinium rDNA was present in mixed plankton samples devoid of decapod larvae, but including the 2 μm–10 mm fraction of particulate organic matter in the water column, containing phytoplankton and other zooplankton. These results indicate that Hematodinium occurs in the water column and is harboured by planktonic organisms, including larval stages of the crustacean hosts, when infections are at their lowest in adult hosts.