Examination of the potential relationship between boring sponges and pea crabs and their effects on eastern oyster condition

Jessica C. Watts, John M. Carroll, Daphne Munroe, Christopher M. Finelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica provides a number of ecosystem services and is an important commercial fishery species along the US East and Gulf Coasts. Oyster populations have declined dramatically due to overharvesting, habitat loss, and disease. As restoration efforts and aquaculture of oysters continue to increase throughout their range, it is important to consider the impacts of a number of potential oyster pests, including the boring sponge Cliona spp. and the pea crab Zaops (Pinnotheres) ostreum, on oyster populations. Both of these have been demonstrated to reduce oyster growth, condition, and in some instances, reproductive output. Boring sponges in particular are a major concern for oyster growers and managers. Our monitoring efforts have suggested that pea crabs might be more prevalent in sponge-infested oysters; we therefore conducted an observational study to determine if there was any relationship between pea crab prevalence and sponge presence, and to examine whether the presence of both pests had synergistic effects on oyster condition. At 2 very different sample sites, North Carolina and New Jersey, oysters with 1 pest (i.e. boring sponge) were significantly more likely to have the second pest (i.e. pea crab) than the background population. Furthermore, sponge presence negatively affected oyster condition in North Carolina only, while pea crabs significantly reduced condition at both locations. When sponges and pea crabs were present together, the effects on oyster condition were additive. This study provides further evidence that interactions between an individual and a fouling/pest organism can alter oyster susceptibility to other parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 28 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


  • Cliona spp
  • Condition
  • Crassostrea virginica
  • Parasite
  • Zaops (Pinnotheres) ostreum

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