Is an apicomplexan parasite responsible for the collapse of the Iceland scallop (Chlamys islandica) stock?

Árni Kristmundsson*, Ásthildur Erlingsdóttir, Mark A. Freeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Due to the total and unexpected collapse of the Iceland scallop, Chlamys islandica, stocks around Iceland during the 2000s, a commercial fishing ban has been imposed on this valuable resource since 2003. Following the initial identification of an apicomplexan parasite in the scallops, a long-term surveillance program was established to evaluate the effect of the parasite on the population. The infections were highly prevalent in all shell sizes throughout the study. However, the parasite only impacts mature scallops where they cause severe macroscopic changes, characterized by an extensively diminished and abnormally coloured adductor muscle. A highly significant relationship was observed between infection intensity and gonad and adductor muscle indices. The first four years of the study, were characterized by high infection intensity and very poor condition of the adductor muscle and gonads, whilst during subsequent years, infections gradually decreased and the condition of the scallops improved. Histopathological changes were restricted to the presence of apicomplexan zoites which were widely distributed, causing varying degrees of pathology in all organs. In heavy infections, muscular and connective tissues were totally necrotized, destroying significant parts of numerous organs, especially the adductor muscle, digestive gland and gonads. The progression of the disease was in good synchrony with the mortality rates and the subsequent decline observed in the scallop stock and recruitment indices. Our findings strongly suggest that the apicomplexan parasite played a major role in the collapse of the Iceland scallop stock in Breidafjordur. In addition to causing mortality, the infections significantly impact gonad development which contributes further to the collapse of the stock in the form of lower larval recruitment. Furthermore, compelling evidence exists that this apicomplexan pathogen is causing serious disease outbreaks in other scallop populations. Similar abnormal adductor muscles and the parasite itself have been identified or observed in association with other mass mortality events in several different scallop species and commercial stocks in the northern hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144685
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

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© 2015 Kristmundsson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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