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Distribution and Pathogenicity of the Protist Labyrinthula sp. in western Mediterranean Seagrass Meadows

Abstract

The presence of the pathogenic protist Labyrinthula sp., the causative agent of seagrass wasting disease and mass mortality events, was assessed in 18 seagrass meadows in the Balearic region (western Mediterranean). This protist was found in 70% of seagrass meadows investigated and in all seagrass species present in the region (i.e., Posidonia oceanica, Cymodocea nodosa, and Zostera noltii). Labyrinthula spp. cultures isolated from seven P. oceanica and one Thalassia testudinum meadows were used as inocula to perform cross-infection experiments in order to test seagrass vulnerability to Labyrinthula spp. infection. These isolates produced lesions on P. oceanica and other seagrass species (Zostera marina, Z. noltii, and C. nodosa). P. oceanica and Z. noltii, both species autochthonous to the Mediterranean Sea, were the seagrasses most vulnerable to infection by the tested isolates. One of the P. oceanica isolates of Labyrinthula sp. also infected the Atlantic seagrass Z. marina, and all of the Mediterranean seagrasses were infected by Labyrinthula sp. isolated from the T. testudinum, native to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. This work confirms that Labyrinthula sp. is commonly found on seagrasses of the Mediterranean Sea and demonstrates that Labyrinthula sp. can infect seagrasses in different genera, in contrast to previous studies where Labyrinthula sp. was considered to be genus-specific. This finding points out the broadly pathogenic nature of some Labyrinthula sp. isolates. Finally, this work identifies Labyrinthula sp. as a possible detrimental agent for P. oceanica.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Fundación BBVA (project Praderas), the Spanish Ministry of Environment (project ref: 55/2002), and the Spanish Marine Science and Technology program (project MEDEICG, CTM2009-07013). We thank Anne Boettcher and Dan Martin for providing unpublished information and for their advice. We also extend thanks to Steve Dudgeon for his help with statistical analysis. We are grateful to Regino Martínez for assistance in the field. NGB was funded by a scholarship from the Government of the Balearic Islands.

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Correspondence to Neus Garcias-Bonet.

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Garcias-Bonet, N., Sherman, T.D., Duarte, C.M. et al. Distribution and Pathogenicity of the Protist Labyrinthula sp. in western Mediterranean Seagrass Meadows. Estuaries and Coasts 34, 1161 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-011-9416-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-011-9416-4

Keywords

  • Labyrinthula sp.
  • Marine pathogen
  • Seagrass
  • Posidonia oceanica
  • Wasting disease
  • Balearic Islands