Climate change enhances disease processes in crustaceans: case studies in lobsters, crabs, and shrimps

Climate change has resulted in increasing temperature and acidification in marine systems. Rising temperature and acidification act as stressors that negatively affect host barriers to infection, thus enhancing disease processes and influencing the emergence of pathogens in ecologically and commercially important species. Given that crustaceans are ectotherms, changes in temperature dominate their physiological and immunological responses to microbial pathogens and parasites. Because of this, the thermal ranges of several crustacean hosts and their pathogens can be used to project the outcomes of infections. Host factors such as molting, maturation, respiration, and immune function are strongly influenced by temperature, which in turn alter the host’s susceptibility to pathogens, further amplifying morbidity and mortality. Microbial pathogens are also strongly influenced by temperature, arguably more so than their crustacean hosts. Microbial pathogens, with higher thermal optima than their hosts, grow rapidly and overcome host immune defenses, which have been weakened by increased temperatures. Pathogen factors such as metabolic rates, growth rates, virulence factors, and developmental rates are often enhanced by rising temperature, which translates into increased transmission, dispersal, and proliferation at the population level, and ultimately emergence of outbreaks in host populations. Less well known are the effects of acidification and salinity intrusion on host-pathogen processes, but they operate alongside temperature, as multiple stressors, that impose significant metabolic and physiological demands on host homeostasis.

Shields J. D., 2019. Climate change enhances disease processes in crustaceans: case studies in lobsters, crabs, and shrimps. Journal of Crustacean Biology 39 (6): 673–683. Article.

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