Simulated marine heat wave alters abundance and structure of Vibrio populations associated with the Pacific oyster resulting in a mass mortality event

Timothy J. Green*, Nachshon Siboni, William L. King, Maurizio Labbate, Justin R. Seymour, David Raftos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Marine heat waves are predicted to become more frequent and intense due to anthropogenically induced climate change, which will impact global production of seafood. Links between rising seawater temperature and disease have been documented for many aquaculture species, including the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. The oyster harbours a diverse microbial community that may act as a source of opportunistic pathogens during temperature stress. We rapidly raised the seawater temperature from 20 °C to 25 °C resulting in an oyster mortality rate of 77.4%. Under the same temperature conditions and with the addition of antibiotics, the mortality rate was only 4.3%, strongly indicating a role for bacteria in temperature-induced mortality. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing revealed a change in the oyster microbiome when the temperature was increased to 25 °C, with a notable increase in the proportion of Vibrio sequences. This pattern was confirmed by qPCR, which revealed heat stress increased the abundance of Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio fortis by 324-fold and 10-fold, respectively. Our findings indicate that heat stress-induced mortality of C. gigas coincides with an increase in the abundance of putative bacterial pathogens in the oyster microbiome and highlights the negative consequences of marine heat waves on food production from aquaculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-747
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date10 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019


  • Crassostrea
  • Vibrio harveyi
  • marine heat wave
  • temperature stress
  • disease event


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