The ecology of Bonamia and decline of bivalve molluscs
- National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand
Bonamia is a protozoan parasite of the haemocytes of oysters (Tiostrea chilensis), in which it has an annual developmental cycle between November and August each year. The parasite transmits directly, oyster to oyster, and therefore disease spread is related to host stock density. The Foveaux Strait oyster population experiences large mortalities every 20-30 years, and these may be attributable to Bonamia. The parasite appears to become less pathogenic at the end of, and probably between, mass mortalities, and some oysters appear more tolerant of infection than others. On the basis of these observations, and considering other protist pathogen:oyster models, the apparently reduced pathogenicity of Bonamia is discussed in terms of parasite kinetics. The population dynamics and selection of parasite tolerant host stocks, and kinetics of parasite transmission, may explain the cyclic nature of large-scale mortalities in Foveaux Strait, without change in parasite pathogenicity.