Finding: Warm Temperature Stresses Abalone

Bren associate professor Hunter Lenihan and PhD student Tal Ben-Horin have found that in addition to stressing the immune system of California abalone and making them more vulnerable to the wasting disease known as withering syndrome, warm ocean water can also make their usual rocky habitat less hospitable.

Lenihan, a marine ecologist, and Ben-Horin, who is doing his PhD work on abalone, used a California Sea Grant to conduct research suggesting that heat diminishes the ability of Haliotis cracherodii to cope gracefully with exposure to air during low tides.

When not immersed, the mollusks experience the full force of daytime and nighttime temperature extremes, explains Ben-Horin. In laboratory experiments, it is these temperature extremes that accelerate disease transmission.

“Abalone in marginal habitats end up becoming the Typhoid Mary of withering syndrome,” Ben-Horin says. The best habitats for the abalone are the deep crevices that are only rarely or briefly exposed.

Findings were recently shared with NOAA Fisheries biologists in charge of designating critical habitat and developing a recovery plan for the federally protected endangered species.


Relevant Links:

NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources
Proposed Rulemaking to Designate Critical Habitat for Black Abalone
Sea Grant California


Hunter Lenihan
Tal Ben-Horin

Hunter Lenihan

Tal Ben-Horin