The sabellid polychaete Terebrasabella heterouncinata (Fitzhugh & Rouse 1999) has a unique life history in which larvae settle on the edge of gastropod shells and rely on shell deposition to create a tube with an opening to the exterior. This worm was accidentally imported to California, USA on abalone from South Africa in the 1980s and spread with abalone shipments to most culture facilities and some public aquaria throughout the state. Its ability to infest California's native gastropods has sparked concern regarding potential establishment in intertidal habitats adjacent to facilities that held sabellid-positive abalone. We examined the ability of T. heterouncinata to transmit between individual turban snails, Tegula funebralis. We found that transmission between T. funebralis did occur, but at a significantly slower rate than that between red abalone Haliotis rufescens. During 2002 to 2006 native gastropods (turban snails and limpets) were collected at most sabellid-exposed sites and no T. heterouncinata were detected; it thus appears that this species has not become established in California. Freshwater exposure was examined as a method to kill T. heterouncinata in shell fragments that may remain after abalone are removed from production or display units. Freshwater immersion for up to 8 hours but not 16 or 32 h resulted in survival of adults and/or larvae resident in brood chambers. In a similar study, motile T. heterouncinata larvae were found to survive up to 32 sec of freshwater exposure, whereas none survived a 64-sec exposure. These data can be used by abalone culture and display facilities to establish reliable sanitization procedures to prevent T. heterouncinata transmission or reinfestation.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3