Oyster herpes doesn’t harm people but a mutation has turned it from being an occasional oyster nuisance to an oyster killer in unprecedented proportions.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Herpes has devastated 26 percent of France’s oyster production since the summer of 2008. Halfway around the world in Australia, the virus killed 10 million oysters in three days.
Researchers suspect climate change risks compounding the losses.
To learn more about how the virus and warmer ocean water affects Pacific oysters, researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and the University of Tasmania are using dental gum to attach heart-rate monitors to a half-dozen of them. Another dozen Pacific oysters are wired up in an indoor lab, where light and temperature are modified to gauge changes in the oysters’ physiological reactions.
“You can stand at a fence and look at your cow or your sheep, but you can’t do that with an oyster,” said Nick Elliott, research group leader at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s agriculture flagship, which is leading the research team in Hobart, Tasmania. “Their faces don’t tell you how they’re performing.”
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