DAO 49:51-60 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/dao049051

Factors influencing the distribution of Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of whirling disease, in the Cache la Poudre River, Colorado

M. Brady Allen*, Eric P. Bergersen**

Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit1, Room 201 Wagar Building, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80532, USA
*Present address: US Geological Survey, 5501a Cook-Underwood Rd., Cook, Washington 98605, USA
**Corresponding author. E-mail:
1 Cooperators are the US Geological Survey, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Colorado State University

ABSTRACT: Oligochaetes, triactinomyxons (TAMs), and age-0 trout were sampled in the upper Cache la Poudre River, Colorado, to determine the distribution of Myxobolus cerebralis during 1997 and 1998. Densities of the intermediate host, the oligochaete Tubifex tubifex, were 3.5 orders of magnitude higher in the M. cerebralis-infected Poudre Rearing Unit (PRU) trout rearing ponds than at any of the river sampling reaches. Oligochaetes, including T. tubifex, were rare in the river (1 oligochaete m-2), except in a few stream side alcoves and eddies (50 oligochaete m-2). Species composition of oligochaetes in the river reaches was more diverse than in the PRU. Tubifex tubifex constituted 50% or less of the oligochaete community in the river and 98% in the PRU. Infection rates of T. tubifex were 1% in the area above the PRU, 2% in the PRU, and 6% below the PRU. An increased M. cerebralis intensity of infection in age-0 trout below the PRU could not be attributed entirely to the high numbers of TAMs in its effluent (3.7 TAMs l-1). Low densities of TAMs ranging from 0 to 0.2 TAMs l-1 were found in the river reaches, yet nearly all of the age-0 trout were infected soon after emergence. This suggests that very few TAMs, as measured by filtration, need be present in the water column to bring about infection in the majority of trout present. This also indicates that the parasite can persist and potentially cause reduced juvenile trout recruitment in cold, oligotrophic, sediment poor, high-gradient streams.


KEY WORDS: Salmonid whirling disease · Myxobolus cerebralis · Tubifex tubifex · Trout rearing unit


Full text in pdf format