Author Posting. © American Fisheries Society, 2007. This article is posted here by permission of American Fisheries Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Aquatic Animal Health 19 (2007): 215-225, doi:10.1577/H06-014.1.
Epizootic shell disease (ESD) in American lobsters Homarus americanus is the bacterial degradation of the carapace resulting in extensive irregular, deep erosions. The disease is having a major impact on the health and mortality of some American lobster populations, and its effects are being transferred to the economics of the fishery. While the onset and progression of ESD in American lobsters is undoubtedly multifactorial, there is little understanding of the direct causality of this disease. The host susceptibility hypothesis developed here states that although numerous environmental and pathological factors may vary around a lobster, it is eventually the lobster's internal state that is permissive to or shields it from the final onset of the diseased state. To support the host susceptibility hypothesis, we conceptualized a model of shell disease onset and severity to allow further research on shell disease to progress from a structured model. The model states that shell disease onset will occur when the net cuticle degradation (bacterial degradation, decrease of host immune response to bacteria, natural wear, and resorption) is greater than the net deposition (growth, maintenance, and inflammatory response) of the shell. Furthermore, lesion severity depends on the extent to which cuticle degradation exceeds deposition. This model is consistent with natural observations of shell disease in American lobster.
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