Effects of temperature, season and locality on wasting disease in the keystone predatory sea star Pisaster ochraceus

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, British Columbia, Canada.
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms (Impact Factor: 1.75). 11/2009; 86(3):245-51. DOI: 10.3354/dao02125
Source: PubMed


This study investigates wasting disease in the northeast Pacific keystone predatory sea star Pisaster ochraceus on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada). To quantify the effects of temperature, season and locality on the vulnerability of P. ochraceus to wasting disease, we conducted surveys and experiments in early and late summer. To test the prediction that a small increase in temperature would result in heightened infection intensities, we housed sea stars at different temperatures in the laboratory and caged sea stars subtidally at 2 depths. Prevalence and infection intensity were always higher in warm temperature treatments and did not differ between the sexes or with increasing size. Disease effects also varied with season and locality. Specimens held in aquaria displayed significantly higher disease prevalence and infection intensity in June versus August. Furthermore, sea stars from a sheltered inlet showed markedly higher prevalence of the disease in late summer, while wave-exposed sites had consistently low disease prevalence. Seasonal changes in reproductive potential, host condition and/or physiological acclimation, as well as differences in environmental regime among localities, may impact the dynamics of wasting disease. These results demonstrate that small increases in temperature could drive mass mortalities of Pisaster due to wasting disease, with vulnerability possibly reaching a peak in spring and in populations from sheltered localities. This is the most northern report of wasting disease in the class Asteroidea on the west coast of North America.

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    • "We did not conduct long-term experiments with P. ochraceus because some of the animals held in the lab for longer than 4 days showed signs of flesh wasting disease (Eckert et al., 1999; Bates et al., 2009). However, A. miniata was healthy in laboratory conditions after 21 (May 5–26) days (hereafter, A21: Bamfield Inlet, n = 48). "
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