Seasonal and spatial patterns of mudblister worm Polydora websteri infestation of farmed oysters in the northern Gulf of Mexico uri icon


  • Mudblister worms Polydora websteri bore holes into oyster shells, and oysters respond by secreting extra layers of shell, creating a mudblister. When shucked, mudblisters can burst and release anoxic mud. Thus, infestation devalues oysters, particularly on the half-shell market. This study quantified oyster condition index and worm abundances over 2 full growing seasons at commercial oyster farms on the US Gulf of Mexico coast, and our results indicate that oyster growth rate, manipulated through ploidy and stocking densities, had little effect on worm infestation. Larval spionid worms were found year-round. Larval abundances were slightly higher within than away from farms, and larval size distributions were skewed toward smaller larvae within the farms, suggesting that farms may be a source of larvae. Triploid oysters had higher or comparable condition index values to diploids, but during summer months, when worm infestation was high, worm infestation was not correlated with condition index. Previously infested shells deployed at farms became more infested than uninfested shells at moderate infestation levels, but re-infestation was influenced more by farm location than by previous infestation condition. Higher infestation at a farm with more variable salinity as well as higher infestation in 2017 when salinity was lower suggest that salinity may be a potential driver of mudblister worm infestation. Results indicate that oyster farmers on this coast should use desiccation to treat oysters for mudblister worms frequently during the summer, but that manipulating stocking density or ploidy is unlikely to be effective in preventing mudblister worm infestation.

publication date

  • July 23, 2020