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UNCW researchers ID oyster parasite

Published October 19, 2007 by admin

Researchers at UNC-Wilmington have discovered new parasitic infections among Eastern oysters, but thus far do not foresee widespread threat to the native species.

Once thought to only affect Asian oysters, the parasite Bonamia surprisingly showed up in Eastern oysters during a study conducted this year funded by the North Carolina Sea Grant, according to marine biologist Troy Alphin at the UNCW Center for Marine Science.

Asian oyster varieties grow faster than Eastern ones and are not as susceptible to other diseases. They were therefore once thought to be a possible boon to the struggling native Eastern oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waters.

A 2003 experimental nursery in the Bogue Sound in Carteret County south of the Outer Banks found large numbers dying with no immediate answers. It was found that Bonamia was the culprit, having only been found in other parts of the globe prior to that time. Virginia Institute for Marine Science (VIMS) determined it was possible that a large Bonamia breakout could wipe out Asian oyster populations.

At the time this information came out, no large Eastern oysters had been found infected, so the hope was that it would not become another strike against the native Eastern oyster varieties.

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