Parasites affect hemocyte functionality in the hemolymph of the invasive Atlantic blue crab Callinectes sapidus from a coastal habitat of the Salento Peninsula (SE Italy).
The blue crab Callinectes sapidus is an invasive alien species in the Mediterranean Sea. In native habitats, it suffers mortalities determined by different pathogens, including viruses, dinoflagellates, and bacteria. In invaded habitats, scant information is available on the occurrence of parasites in blue crabs, and no comparisons have been made with native brachyuran species. Here, a preliminary screening of the hemolymph of C. sapidus hemolymph as well as of three indigenous crabs (Eriphia verrucosa, Carcinus aestuarii and Pachygrapsus marmoratus), captured in the Acquatina Lagoon (Salento Peninsula, SE Italy), evidenced the presence of unidentified protozoans in more than 70% of the analyzed specimens, with a low number of suspected infections due to dinoflagellates of the genus Hematodinium. In C. sapidus, the occurrence of parasites was accompanied by a decrease of hemocyte functionality, interfering with the role of the cells in innate immunity (i.e. phagocytosis or DOPA production). More studies are necessary in order to verify the impact of this alien brachyuran on invaded ecosystems as mediated by the spread of its parasites and other pathogens.