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Keywords:

  • ascomycetes;
  • pathogenic fungus;
  • loggerhead sea turtle;
  • conservation;
  • ITS rRNA gene

Abstract

The fungus Fusarium solani (Mart.) Saccardo (1881) was found to be the cause of infections in the eggs of the sea turtle species Caretta caretta in Boavista Island, Cape Verde. Egg shells with early and severe symptoms of infection, as well as diseased embryos were sampled from infected nests. Twenty-five isolates with similar morphological characteristics were obtained. Their ITS rRNA gene sequences were similar to the GenBank sequences corresponding to F. solani and their maximum identity ranged from 95% to 100%. Phylogenetic parsimony and Bayesian analyses of these isolates showed that they belong to a single F. solani clade and that they are distributed in two subclades named A and C (the latter containing 23 out of 25). A representative isolate of subclade C was used in challenge inoculation experiments to test Koch postulates. Mortality rates were c. 83.3% in challenged eggs and 8.3% in the control. Inoculated challenged eggs exhibited the same symptoms as infected eggs found in the field. Thus, this work demonstrates that a group of strains of F. solani are responsible for the symptoms observed on turtle-nesting beaches, and that they represent a risk for the survival of this endangered species.