Title

Carcinonemertes conanobrieni - A Nemertean Parasite Infecting the Caribbean Spiny Lobster, Panulirus argus. Species Description, Host-Use, and Effect on Host Reproductive Health

Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member

Dr. J Antonio Baeza, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Childress

Committee Member

Dr. Charles Rice

Abstract

Marine ecosystems are one of the world’s most heavily used and valuable natural systems. However, over the past decades, they have seen changes in the oceans’ pH, temperature, salinity, and other abiotic factors - all of which appear to have impacted the health of these systems, and there seems to be a global trend indicating that diseases in marine environments are emerging at an increased rate. Infection by a disease can result in a variety of negative effects on the health of a host, all of which are especially relevant in instances where commercially important hosts are infected. Disease can lead to changes in growth, longevity, reproduction, embryo survival, and marketability of a host. One ecologically and commercially important species that appears to have been impacted by this trend of increased disease emergence is the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus. Panulirus argus plays host to a number of previously described and newly emergent pathogens. However, here, a new species of nemertean worm belonging to the genus Carcinonemertes is described from egg masses of P. argus from the Florida Keys, Florida, USA. Though P. argus ranges throughout the Caribbean, this worm has thus far only been observed infecting gravid female lobsters in the Florida Keys. This is the first species of Carcinonemertes reported to infect P. argus or any other lobster species in the greater Caribbean and western Atlantic Ocean. To determine the host use, infection prevalence, and infection intensity of this new parasite on P. argus, male, non-gravid female, and gravid female lobsters were captured along the Florida Key reef tract from and examined for infection. Furthermore, infected gravid females were also used in estimating the impact that infection by this nemertean had on three levels of reproductive performance (reproductive output, fecundity, and brood mortality).

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