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The parasite that was identified as the cause of Diadema antillarum sea urchin mass mortality in the Caribbean in 2022 has been shown to be the cause of a die off in the Sea of Oman, affecting sibling-species Diadema setosum

long-spined sea urchins on the seafloor. left urchin with spines intact. right is nearly bare surrounded by fallen spines
A healthy Diadema antillarum urchin is seen on the left with spines intact. On the right, another urchin is in the process of losing its spines—which usually occurs within 1-2 days of infection. The disease affects D. setosum similarly.

Researchers in Oman reported a mass mortality of D. setosum in 2023 in the Sea of Oman, and reached out to collaborate to find the cause. Infected environmental samples were confirmed by genomic tests to contain the same ciliate parasite that killed D. antillarum in 2022. Next, D. setosum obtained from the aquarium trade were challenged with the ciliate in a controlled experiment and demonstrated to be susceptible to the ciliate. This work was conducted at the University of South Florida and included USGS scientists Christina Kellogg and James Evans.

Read the article: "Transglobal spread of an ecologically relevant sea urchin parasite"

Read the USF College of Marine Science News article: "Sea urchin killer spreads to new species, region"

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