Longitudinal study of winter mortality disease in Sydney rock oysters Saccostrea glomerata

Zoe B. Spiers, Melinda Gabor, Shayne A. Fell, Ryan B. Carnegie, Michael Dove, Wayne O'Connor, Jane Frances, Jeffrey Go, Ian B. Marsh, Cheryl Jenkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Winter mortality (WM) is a poorly studied disease affecting Sydney rock oysters Saccostrea glomerata in estuaries in New South Wales, Australia, where it can cause significant losses. WM is more severe in oysters cultured deeper in the water column and appears linked to higher salinities. Current dogma is that WM is caused by the microcell parasite Bonamia roughleyi, but evidence linking clinical signs and histopathology to molecular data identifying bonamiasis is lacking. We conducted a longitudinal study between February and November 2010 in 2 estuaries where WM has occurred (Georges and Shoalhaven Rivers). Results from molecular testing of experimental oysters for Bonamia spp were compared to clinical disease signs and histopathology. Available environmental data from the study sites were also collated and compared. Oyster condition declined over the study period, coinciding with decreasing water temperatures, and was inversely correlated with the presence of histological lesions. While mortalities occurred in both estuaries, only oysters from the Georges River study site showed gross clinical signs and histological changes characteristic of WM (lesions were prevalent and intralesional microcell-like structures were sometimes noted). PCR testing for Bonamia spp revealed the presence of an organism belonging to the B. Exitiosa-B. roughleyi clade in some samples; however, the very low prevalence of this organism relative to histological changes and the lack of reactivity of affected oysters in subsequent in situ hybridisation experiments led us to conclude that this Bonamia sp is not responsible for WM. Another aetiological agent and a confluence of environmental factors are a more likely explanation for the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-164
Number of pages14
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bonamia roughleyi
  • Haemocyte
  • Lesion
  • Microcell-like structure


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