Freshwater mussels show elevated viral richness and intensity during a mortality event

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Freshwater mussels (Unionida) are among the world’s most imperiled taxa, but the relationship between freshwater mussel mortality events and infectious disease is largely unstudied. We surveyed viromes of a widespread and abundant species (mucket, Actinonaias ligamentina; syn: Ortmanniana ligamentina) experiencing a mortality event of unknown etiology in the Huron River, Michigan, in 2019–2020 and compared them to viromes from mucket in a healthy population in the St. Croix River, Wisconsin and a population from the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, where a mortality event was affecting the congeneric pheasantshell (Actinonaias pectorosa; syn: Ortmanniana pectorosa) population. We identified 38 viruses, most of which were associated with mussels collected during the Huron River mortality event. Viral richness and cumulative viral read depths were significantly higher in moribund mussels from the Huron River than in healthy controls from each of the three populations. Our results demonstrate significant increases in the number and intensity of viral infections for freshwater mussels experiencing mortality events, whereas individuals from healthy populations have a substantially reduced virome comprising a limited number of species at low viral read depths.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Freshwater mussels show elevated viral richness and intensity during a mortality event
Series title Viruses
DOI 10.3390/v14122603
Volume 14
Issue 12
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description 2603, 13 p.
Country United States
State Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin
Other Geospatial Clinch River, Huron River, Saint Croix River
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