Effect of pea crabPinnotheres vicajii(Chhapgar, 1957) on immunocompetence of bivalvePaphia malabarica(Chemnitz, 1782)

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The endosymbiont-host relationship between a pea crab and its bivalve host has been studied previously using bivalve's multi-physiological parameters. The present study is first of its kind that uses hemocyte's immune functionality to evaluate the symbiotic relationship between bivalve Paphia malabarica and its symbiont crab, Pinnotheres vicajii. The sampling was carried out at two stations (differed in nutrient concentration, productivity, and bacterial abundance) located along the southwest coast of India. The results showed lower immunocompetence in the case of bivalves infested with pea crabs. The lowering of hemocyte population was the most prominent and perhaps the initial reaction in response to focal inflammation or wound inflicted by the pea crabs. A significant lowering of phagocytosis, lysozyme, and esterase activity was also observed, indicating the detrimental impact of crab infestation. Interestingly, no significant correlation was found between parasitism and condition index despite the lower immunocompetence, validating the effectiveness of using hematological parameters in comparison to other life-history traits. This indicates that the immune parameters being directly related to the organism's metabolic state can elucidate the early effect of stressors, therefore, proving to be a better proxy for understanding a host-pathogen relationship. Disparity found in bivalve's immunocompetence between the sampling sites could be linked to either variation in environmental parameters, the size of the symbiont or the infection level. Our preliminary results provide a direction towards examining immunodepression in parasitized bivalves by considering ex-situ controlled parasitism induction along with varying environmental conditions. In view of this, efforts must be directed towards minimizing pea crab's outbreaks, especially in cultivated shellfish farms. Future studies should elucidate molecular mechanisms involved in the immunocompetence of P. malabarica, hosting the parasitic pea crabs.

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