DV-17-17 Transmission dynamics of green crab parasites on the Maine coast

Ian Bricknell
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine

The European green crab, Carcinus maenas, is an invasive species on the East Coast of the United States as well as many other regions around the world, and threatens important seafood species in Maine. There are no significant natural predators of green crabs on the coast of Maine, but the species is prone to parasitic infection by Profilicollis botulus, a species of Acanthocephalan parasite known as a “spiny-headed worm” that targets eider ducks. Indirect transmission allows for infection of other incidental hosts, including American lobster. Some have proposed using green crabs as bait for the lobster fishery, yet the potential injury to lobster from this parasite is cause for concern. While acanthocephalan infections have been shown to have a wide array of impacts on host organisms, a degree of species-specific variability also exists, with each parasite-host relationship being markedly different. In addition to this variation, changing climate conditions may influence green crab populations and the parasite transmission system.

The research will focus on quantifying the specific impacts of P. botulus under current and predicted climate conditions in Maine. The proposed study will carry out three phases of controlled trials at the Aquaculture Research Center to determine the effects of the parasite on the health of lobster and native crab species.

Sea Grant funds: $3,500