Pathogenic Labyrinthula associated with Australian seagrasses: Considerations for seagrass wasting disease in the southern hemisphere

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Journal Article
Microbiological Research, 2018, 206 pp. 74 - 81
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© 2017 Marine disease ecology is a growing field of research, particularly for host organisms negatively impacted by a changing climate and anthropogenic activities. A decrease in health and increase in susceptibility to disease has been hypothesised as the mechanism behind wide-spread seagrass die-offs related to wasting disease in the past. However, seagrass wasting disease and the causative pathogen, Labyrinthula, have been vastly understudied in the southern hemisphere. Our aim was to build on the current knowledge of Australian Labyrinthula descriptions and phylogeny, while also providing a first look at wasting disease ecology in Australia. Five seagrass species along a 750 km stretch of coastline in southeastern Australia were sampled. The resulting 38 Labyrinthula isolates represented a diversity of morphotypes and five haplotypes of varying phylogenetic clade positions and virulence. The haplotypes clustered with previously-described phylogenetic clades containing isolates from Asia, USA and Europe. Pathogenicity tests confirmed, for the first time, the presence of at least two pathogenic haplotypes in Australia. While historically there have been no reports of wasting disease-related seagrass habitat loss, the presence of pathogenic Labyrinthula highlights the need for disease monitoring and research to understand seagrass wasting disease ecology in Australia.
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