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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 128:249-258 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03226

Taxonomic status and epidemiology of the mesoparasitic copepod Pennella balaenoptera in cetaceans from the western Mediterranean

Natalia Fraija-Fernández1, Ana Hernández-Hortelano1, Ana E. Ahuir-Baraja1,2, Juan Antonio Raga1, Francisco Javier Aznar1,*

1Marine Zoology Unit, Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Science Park, University of Valencia, PO Box 22085, Valencia 46071, Spain
2Departamento de Producción Animal, Sanidad Animal, Salud Pública Veterinaria y Ciencia y Tecnología de los Alimentos, Facultad de Veterinaria, CEU-Cardenal Herrera University, Alfara del Patriarca, Valencia 46115, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Pennella balaenoptera is a mesoparasitic copepod that has been reported in at least 17 cetacean species. Subtle morphological differences in the first antennae of adult females have been used to discriminate this species from P. filosa, a species infecting fishes. Other morphological traits are unreliable because of their high plasticity, and no molecular data are available to confirm the taxonomic status of P. balaenoptera as an independent species. We found no consistent morphological differences of the first antennae between P. balaenoptera and P. filosa collected from cetaceans and fish in the western Mediterranean. Molecular data on the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I failed to show reciprocal monophyly for the 2 species, and nucleotide divergence between them was low (mean ± SD [range]: 4.1 ± 0.006% [0.5-8.9]). Thus, P. balaenoptera and P. filosa are considered conspecific. We also obtained data on infection parameters of P. balaenoptera based on 450 individuals of 6 cetacean species stranded on the Spanish Mediterranean coast between 1980 and 2017. Prevalence was significantly lowest in the most coastal species, the bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus (3.6%) and highest in the most oceanic species, Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris (100%). This suggests that the life cycle of P. balaenoptera is primarily oceanic. Interestingly, P. filosa also occurs in the oceanic realm infecting large fishes. This ecological similarity further supports the hypothesis that P. balaenoptera and P. filosa are conspecific.


KEY WORDS: Pennella balaenoptera · Pennella filosa · mtCOI · Integrative taxonomy · Cetaceans · Oceanic fish · Host specificity


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Cite this article as: Fraija-Fernández N, Hernández-Hortelano A, Ahuir-Baraja AE, Raga JA, Aznar FJ (2018) Taxonomic status and epidemiology of the mesoparasitic copepod Pennella balaenoptera in cetaceans from the western Mediterranean. Dis Aquat Org 128:249-258. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03226

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