The Caribbean Spiny Lobster has been a mainstay of Florida’s seafood industry for decades, but the harvest went off a cliff about a decade ago, declining about 30%, and has never rebounded. Biologists think the culprit is a virus called PaV1, which targets juveniles by attacking their blood cells and tissues. The lobsters gradually become listless, stop moving, and eventually die of starvation. University of Florida Ecologist Don Behringer wants to know how this pathogen has spread so far, so fast, and with funding from the National Science Foundation, has turned up an intriguing and menacing possibility. He says the virus may be dispersed by the lobster’s larvae, which float free like plankton in the open water for the first few months of their lives. Behringer says that particular transmission vector has never been seen before with marine animals, and would explain how the virus has turned up so many places in such a short period of time, from Florida to the Caribbean, and even Mexico. Better understanding of how the virus spreads could lead to more effective management strategies for protecting uninfected lobsters.
Provided by the National Science Foundation
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