Professor Jeff Shields and colleagues at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have succeeded in their 15-year effort to unravel the life history of Hematodinium, a single-celled parasite that afflicts blue crabs and is of growing concern to aquaculture operations and wild fisheries around the world.
Knowledge of the parasite’s complex life cycle — gained by rearing of successive generations across a full year in a VIMS laboratory — will help guide efforts to understand the transmission of Hematodinium within crab populations and shrimp farms, and to develop best practices for the handling of animals within Virginia’s fishery for wild-caught blue crabs.
“Describing the entire life cycle ofHematodinium was an important breakthrough for us,” says Shields. “Having all stages in culture means we can now really start picking the life cycle apart to learn what the organism does and how it functions.”
One important finding, says Shields, is “that we now know that the development time in culture is around 40-50 days. That matches well with cycles of infection that we see in the field, which we think occur in relation to molting in the blue crab.”