DAO 101:131-137 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02524

Prevalence of Anguillicoloides crassus and growth variation in migrant yellow-phase American eels of the upper Potomac River drainage

Jennifer L. Zimmerman1, Stuart A. Welsh2,*

1Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, USA
2US Geological Survey, West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Prevalence of the non-native swim bladder nematode Anguillicoloides crassus has recently increased in American eels from estuaries of the North American Atlantic coast, but little is known about parasite prevalence or conditions of previous infection in upstream migrant eels within upper watersheds. This study is the first to confirm presence of A. crassus in the upper Potomac River watershed. We estimated A. crassus prevalence during 3 time periods: September to October 2006 (5/143 eels, 3.5%), August to October 2007 (0/49 eels), and June 2008 (0/50 eels). All eels were sampled from the Millville Dam eel ladder on the lower Shenandoah River, a Potomac River tributary located approximately 285 km upstream of Chesapeake Bay, USA. Of the 5 infected eels, parasite intensity was 1 for each eel, and mean intensity was also 1.0. A swim bladder degenerative index (SDI) was calculated for the 50 eels from the final sampling period, and 38% of those eels (19 of 50) showed signs of previous infection by A. crassus. We also aged 42 of the 50 eels (mean ± SE = 6.7 ± 0.29 yr, range 4 to 11 yr) from the final sampling period. Based on the range of possible SDI scores (0 to 6), severity of previously infected swim bladders was moderate (SDI = 1 or 2). Previously infected eels, however, had a lower length-at-age than that of uninfected eels. Female yellow-phase eels in upper watersheds develop into large highly fecund silver-phase adults; hence, a parasite-induced effect on growth of yellow-phase eels could ultimately reduce reproductive potential.


KEY WORDS: Anguilla rostrata · Growth · Swim bladder degenerative index · Shenandoah River


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Cite this article as: Zimmerman JL, Welsh SA (2012) Prevalence of Anguillicoloides crassus and growth variation in migrant yellow-phase American eels of the upper Potomac River drainage. Dis Aquat Org 101:131-137. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02524

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