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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 100:59-70 (2012)  -  DOI:

Population dynamics of Salmincola salmoneus on Atlantic salmon in a northern Norwegian river

S. Kusterle*, R. Kristoffersen, A. H. Rikardsen

Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

ABSTRACT: Atlantic salmon Salmo salar are often heavily infected by the gill maggot Salmincola salmoneus, but little information exists on the population dynamics of this parasite. Through a combination of in vivo field examination and laboratory analysis of gills from the Alta River S. salar population in northern Norway, we describe the population dynamics of the parasite and suggest a model for the host−parasite interactions. S. salar did not become infected with S. salmoneus until they returned to the river as first-time spawners. The infection increased rapidly until autumn, and just after spawning 96% of the spent fish (kelts) were infected with a mean intensity of 53 parasites per fish. In May, the prevalence of S. salmoneus on the descending kelts had increased to 100%, but the intensity exhibited little change. A small proportion of the adult S. salar population returned as immature to the river during autumn and had lower parasite intensities than the kelts the following spring. When the fish that had spawned previously (repeat spawners) returned from their second (or more) sea migration, they had an average infection rate of 36 S. salmoneus individuals per fish. The kelts seemed to be the main habitat for the parasite during winter and spring, and they stay long enough in the river to pass the infection to maiden S. salar that enter the river early in summer. These fish then became a source of infection for the maiden fish entering the river later. However, in years that have a possible mismatch between the opposite migration of kelts and maiden S. salar, the immature fall-running and returning repeat spawners will be crucial for maintaining the parasite population. We hypothesize that heavily infected S. salar may suffer reduced growth and survival at sea, potentially reducing the abundance of repeat spawners.

KEY WORDS: Parasitism · Anadromy · Migration · Salmo salar · Gill maggot · Copepod

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Cite this article as: Kusterle S, Kristoffersen R, Rikardsen AH (2012) Population dynamics of Salmincola salmoneus on Atlantic salmon in a northern Norwegian river. Dis Aquat Org 100:59-70.

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