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Ecology and Evolution








Temperature is hypothesized to alter disease dynamics, particularly when species are living at or near their thermal limits. When disease occurs in marine systems, this can go undetected, particularly if the disease is chronic and progresses slowly. As a result, population-level impacts of diseases can be grossly underestimated. Complex migratory patterns, stochasticity in recruitment, and data and knowledge gaps can hinder collection and analysis of data on marine diseases. New tools enabling quantification of disease impacts in marine environments include coupled biogeochemical hydrodynamic models (to hindcast key environmental data), and multievent, multistate mark-recapture (MMSMR) (to quantify the effects of environmental conditions on disease processes and assess population-level impacts). We used MMSMR to quantify disease processes and population impacts in an estuarine population of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in Chesapeake Bay from 2005 to 2013. Our results supported the hypothesis that mycobacteriosis is chronic, progressive, and, frequently, lethal. Yearly disease incidence in fish age three and above was 89%, suggesting that this disease impacts nearly every adult striped bass. Mortality of diseased fish was high, particularly in severe cases, where it approached 80% in typical years. Severely diseased fish also had a 10-fold higher catchability than healthy fish, which could bias estimates of disease prevalence. For both healthy and diseased fish, mortality increased with the modeled average summer sea surface temperature (SST) at the mouth of the Rappahannock River; in warmer summers (average SST ≥2 9°C), a cohort is predicted to experience >90% mortality in 1year. Regression of disease signs in mildly and moderately diseased fish was <2%. These results suggest that these fish are living at their maximum thermal tolerance and that this is driving increased disease and mortality. Management of this fishery should account for the effects of temperature and disease on impacted populations.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Original Publication Citation

Groner, M. L., Hoenig, J. M., Pradel, R., Choquet, R., Vogelbein, W. K., Gauthier, D. T., & Friedrichs, M. A. M. (2018). Dermal mycobacteriosis and warming sea surface temperatures are associated with elevated mortality of striped bass in Chesapeake Bay. Ecology and Evolution, 8(18), 9384-9397. doi:10.1002/ece3.4462


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