Validating the identity of Paramoeba invadens, the causative agent of recurrent mass mortality of sea urchins in Nova Scotia, Canada

Colette J. Feehan, Jessica Johnson-Mackinnon, Robert E. Scheibling, Jean Sébastien Lauzon-Guay, Alastair G.B. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Green sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis along the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, suffer mass mortalities from infection by the pathogenic amoeba Paramoeba invadens Jones, 1985. It has been speculated that P. invadens could be a form of Neoparamoeba pema quid - ensis, a species associated with disease in S. droebachiensis and lobsters in the northeast USA. During a disease outbreak in fall 2011, we isolated amoebae from moribund urchins collected from 4 locations along ~200 km of coastline. In laboratory infection trials, we found that timing and rate of morbidity corresponded to that of similar experiments conducted in the early 1980s, when P. invadens was first identified. All isolates had a similar size and morphology to the original description, including an absence of microscales. Sequences of nuclear SSU rDNA show that disease was caused by one 'species' of amoeba across the range sampled. Phylogenetic analyses prove that P. invadens is not conspecific with N. pemaquidensis, but is a distinct species most closely related to N. branchiphila, a suspected pathogen of sea urchins Diadema aff. antillarum in the Canary Islands, Spain. Morphology and closest phylogenetic affinities suggest that P. inva - dens would be assignable to the genus Neoparamoeba; however, nuclear SSU rDNA trees show that Neoparamoeba and Paramoeba are phylogenetically inseparable. Therefore, we treat Neo - paramoeba as a junior synonym of Paramoeba, with P. invadens retaining that name, and N. pemaquidensis and N. aestuarina reverting to their original names (P. pemaquidensis and P. aestuarina), and with new combinations for N. branchiphila Dykova et al., 2005, and N. perurans Young et al., 2007, namely P. branchiphila comb. nov. and P. perurans comb. nov.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-227
Number of pages19
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number3
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2013


  • Disease
  • Neoparamoeba
  • Paramoeba invadens
  • Paramoebiasis
  • Parasite
  • SSU rDNA
  • Sea urchin


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