Evidence of threat to European economy and biodiversity following the introduction of an alien pathogen on the fungal-animal boundary.
Recent years have seen a global and rapid resurgence of fungal diseases with direct impact on biodiversity and local extinctions of amphibian, coral, or bat populations. Despite similar evidence of population extinction in European fish populations and the associated risk of food aquaculture due to the emerging rosette agent Sphaerothecum destruens, an emerging infectious eukaryotic intracellular pathogen on the fungal-animal boundary, our understanding of current threats remained limited. Long-term monitoring of population decline for the 8-year post-introduction of the fungal pathogen was coupled with seasonal molecular analyses of the 18S rDNA and histological work of native fish species organs. A phylogenetic relationship between the existing EU and US strains using the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer sequences was also carried out. Here, we provide evidence that this emerging parasite has now been introduced via Pseudorasbora parva to sea bass farms, an industry that represents over 400 MEuro annually in a Mediterranean region that is already economically vulnerable. We also provide for the first time evidence linking S. destruens to disease and severe declines in International Union for Conservation of Nature threatened European endemic freshwater fishes (i.e. 80% to 90% mortalities). Our findings are thus of major economic and conservation importance.