MEPS 328:183-193 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps328183

Ectoparasitic sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus elongatus) infestations of wild, adult, one sea-winter Atlantic salmon Salmo salar returning to Scotland

C. D. Todd1,*, B. D. M. Whyte2, J. C. MacLean2, A. M. Walker1,3

1School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 8LB, Fife, UK
2Fisheries Research Services, Freshwater Laboratory Field Station, Inchbraoch House, South Quay, Ferryden DD10 9SL, Montrose, UK
3Present address: Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, Suffolk, UK

ABSTRACT: Caligid ectoparasitic copepods are major pathological pests on cultured Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L., and their population biology has been well studied in the farm environment. The ecology of caligid infestations of wild salmon is, by contrast, rather poorly understood. We monitored return migrant one sea-winter wild Atlantic salmon in Scotland annually for infestations of 2 caligids, Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer) (between 1998 and 2005) and Caligus elongatus Nordmann (between 1999 and 2005). Prevalence of L. salmonis was 100% in all years, whereas C. elongatus prevalence ranged from 90 to 100%. Abundances fluctuated markedly between years and L. salmonis mean abundance (min. to max.: 17.4 to 31.0) was significantly greater than for C. elongatus (min. to max.: 2.9 to 23.8) in all except one year. A positive association in abundance of the 2 species, for individual fish within any one year, indicates weak or absent competitive effects on abundances for individual hosts. Individual fish within any one year appeared similarly vulnerable to infestation by either species, although Taylor’s power regression showed clear differences in density-related patterns of overdispersion amongst hosts for the 2 species. Host condition factor (expressed either as Fulton’s index, K, or the relative mass index, WR) showed significant variation among years. Parasite species abundances were not, however, determined by host condition factor, and poor condition fish were no more likely to carry high infestations than were high condition fish.

KEY WORDS: Copepoda · Caligidae · Ectoparasite · Lepeophtheirus salmonis · Caligus elongatus · Salmo salar

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