Bacterial pathogens are a long-standing threat to the longevity and survival of crustacean hosts. Their presence and continuing emergence require close monitoring to understand their impact on fished, cultured, and wild crustacean populations. We describe a new bacterial pathogen belonging to the Anaplasmataceae family (Alphaproteobacteria: Rickettsiales), providing pathological, ultrastructural, phylogenetic, and genomic evidence to determine a candidate genus and species (‘Candidatus Mellornella promiscua’). This bacterium was found to infect the mud crab, Eurypanopeus depressus, on the North Carolina coastline (USA) at a prevalence of 10.8%. ‘Candidatus Mellornella promiscua’ was often observed in co-infection with the rhizocephalan barnacle, Loxothylacus panopaei. The bacterium was only found in the hepatopancreas of the mud crab host, causing cytoplasmic hypertrophy, tubule necrosis, large plaques within the cytoplasm of the host cell, and an abundance of sex-pili. The circular genome of the bacterium is 1,013,119 bp and encodes 939 genes in total. Phylogenetically, the new bacterium branches within the Anaplasmataceae. The genome is dissimilar from other described bacteria, with 16S gene similarity observed at a maximum of 85.3% to a Wolbachia endosymbiont. We explore this novel bacterial pathogen using genomic, phylogenetic, ultrastructural, and pathological methods, discussing these results in light of current bacterial taxonomy, similarity to other bacterial pathogens, and the potential impact upon the surrounding disease ecology of the host and benthic ecosystem.
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The authors would like to thank Nicole Machi (University of Florida) for preparation of TEM material. We thank C. Moore and C. Erickson for assistance with dissections. We thank M. Blakeslee, W. Blakeslee, and E. Blakeslee for assistance with sampling. The project was funded by AMHB personal funds.
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