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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 103:9-24 (2013)  -  DOI:

Hyperpigmentation in North Sea dab Limanda limanda. I. Spatial and temporal patterns and host effects

F. Grütjen1, T. Lang2,*, S. Feist3, D. Bruno4, P. Noguera4, W. Wosniok5 

1Department of Biological Sciences, Zoology, University of Rostock, 18055 Rostock, Germany
2Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology, 27472 Cuxhaven, Germany
3Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UB, UK
4Marine Scotland Science, Aberdeen AB11 9DB, UK
5Institute of Statistics, University of Bremen, 28334 Bremen, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Hyperpigmentation is a term describing a specific pigment anomaly affecting common dab Limanda limanda in the North Sea and, less frequently, in adjacent areas, e.g. the English Channel, Irish and Celtic Seas, western Baltic Sea and Icelandic waters. Other North Sea flatfish species are also affected, but at a markedly lower prevalence. The condition is characterised by the occurrence of varying degrees of green to black patchy pigment spots in the skin of the upper (ocular) body side and pearly-white pigment spots in the skin of the lower (abocular) body side. In the course of fish disease monitoring programmes carried out by Germany and the UK (England and Scotland), a pronounced spatial pattern of hyperpigmentation has been detected in the North Sea. An increase in prevalence has been recorded in almost all North Sea areas studied in the past 2 decades. The prevalence recorded in hot spot areas of the condition increased from 5 to >40% between 1988 and 2009. Analysis of the German data indicates that the prevalence and intensity (degree of discolouration) of hyperpigmentation increase with size and age, indicating a temporal progression of the condition with size and age. Intense hyperpigmentation is associated with increased growth (length) and decreased condition factor. Potential causes of the condition (UV-B radiation nutrition, water temperature increase, demographic changes) and, in particular, of the spatial/temporal patterns recorded as well as the relationship to host-specific factors (sex, age, length, growth, condition factor) are discussed.

KEY WORDS: Pigment anomaly · Flatfish · Growth · Condition factor

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Cite this article as: Grütjen F, Lang T, Feist S, Bruno D, Noguera P, Wosniok W (2013) Hyperpigmentation in North Sea dab Limanda limanda. I. Spatial and temporal patterns and host effects. Dis Aquat Org 103:9-24.

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