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ABSTRACT A preliminary survey of 253 Ovalipes stephensoni collected off the southeast coast of the United States revealed a 94.5% incidence of infestation by the parasitic ciliate Synophrya hypertrophica. Analysis of 67 crabs indicated an infestation density ranging from 1 to 270 lesions per branchial chamber. An in depth study of 38 crabs (19 male, 19 female), ranging from 18 mm to 80 mm in carapace width (CW), provided details on the number of gill lamellae with and without parasitic lesions relative to size, sex, and branchial chamber of the crab. The mean lamellar counts of both chambers are not statistically different (P > 0.05), nor is there a significant difference in the mean count between males and females (P > 0.05). Significant differences in mean lamellar counts exist among the individual gills (ANOVA, P < 0.05), which can be ranked 1 (most anterior gill), 8, 2, 3, 7, 4, 6, 5 according to increasing number of lamellae, using the Student-Newman-Keuls test. The number of lamellae increases with body size (Y = 1,979 + 18.47 CW, r2 = 0.83, P < 0.001), but the relationship of the total lamellar count/mm CW with body size is allometric (log Y = 3.024 – 0.738 log CW, r2 = 0.96). The number of lamellae with lesions also increases with crab size (Y = 40.97 + 3.238 CW, r2 = 0.42, P < 0.05). However, there is no difference among the gills with respect to the density of infestation (ANOVA, P > 0.05). The lesions are distributed evenly among the gills (ANOVA, P > 0.05). The extent of the loss of respiratory surface area due to the presence of parasitic lesions was quantified by measuring the area of lesion and total lamellar surface of 45 parasite-laden lamellae of a 55.3 mm CW crab. Distal lamellae are subject to a significantly greater loss of lamellar tissue due to infestation (ANOVA, P < 0.01). The loss of respiratory surface resulting from three levels of infestation (light, medium, heavy) was extrapolated. The resultant percentage losses (0.05, 0.85, 1.39) are low and of questionable importance in the overall natural mortality of the host species.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York 14623;; 2: (PJS) Department of Radiological Sciences, University of Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854.


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