Shell (cuticular) disease manifests in various forms and affects many crustaceans, including lobsters. Outbreaks of white leg disease (WLD) with distinct signs of pereiopod tissue whitening and death have been observed in cultured larvae (phyllosomas) of ornate spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus), eastern rock lobster (Sagmariasus verreauxi), and slipper lobster (Thenus australiensis). This study aimed to characterise and identify the causative agent of WLD through morphological and molecular (16S rRNA gene and whole genome sequencing) analysis, experimental infection of damaged/undamaged (P. ornatus) and (T. australiensis) phyllosomas, and bacterial community analysis (16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing) of (P. ornatus) phyllosomas presenting with WLD during an outbreak. Bacterial communities of WLD-affected pereiopods showed low bacterial diversity and dominant abundance of (Aquimarina) spp. compared to healthy pereiopods, which were more diverse and enriched with (Sulfitobacter) spp. 16S rRNA gene Sanger sequencing of cultures from disease outbreaks identified the dominant bacterial isolate (TRL1) as a Gram-negative, long non-flagellated rod with 100% sequence identity to (Aquimarina hainanensis). (Aquimarina) sp. TRL1 was demonstrated through comparative genome analysis (99.99% OrthoANIu) as the bacterium reisolated from experimentally infected phyllosomas presenting with typical signs of WLD. Pereiopod damage was a major predisposing factor to WLD. Histopathological examination of WLD-affected pereiopods showed masses of internalised bacteria and loss of structural integrity, suggesting that (Aquimarina) sp. TRL1 could enter the circulatory system and cause death by septicaemia. (Aquimarina) sp. TRL1 appears to have important genomic traits (e.g., tissue-degrading enzymes, gliding motility, and aggregate-promoting factors) implicated in the pathogenicity of this bacterium. We have shown that (Aquimarina) sp. TRL1 is the aetiological agent of WLD in cultured Palinurid and Scyllarid phyllosomas and that damaged pereiopods are a predisposing factor to WLD.
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Ooi, M.C., Goulden, E.F., Trotter, A.J., Smith, G.G. and Bridle, A.R., 2020. (Aquimarina sp.) associated with a cuticular disease of cultured larval palinurid and scyllarid lobsters. Frontiers in Microbiology, 11, p.573588.
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