More abalone succumb to withering syndrome disease at higher temperatures

Withering syndrome is a disease that strikes abalone species throughout the Northeast Pacific Ocean, and is one of the main drivers of recent population declines. This disease is long-term and chronic and is caused by an infection inside the cells of abalone of tiny bacteria in the order Rickettsiales. A new study examines how three abalone species react to withering syndrome infections at different temperature, finding that cool-water pinto abalone succumb at the lowest temperature (17.3°C), red abalone at an intermediate temperature (18.0°C), and warm-water pink abalone at higher temperatures (18.8°C). Additionally, species that were most closely related to white abalone (pinto abalone) were the most susceptible to withering disease. These results have important implications for the conservation and rebuilding of wild abalone populations given higher sea temperatures expected in the future, and also for the successful rearing of abalone in aquaculture operations in California and Baja California, Mexico. The work was conducted by SAFS PhD student Lisa Crosson and Prof. Carolyn Friedman and appears in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, and is highlighted as a major research project funded by California Sea Grant.

Black abalone with (left) and without (right) withering disease
The three species examined, their relation to each other, and the effects of temperature and withering syndrome.
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