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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 137:53-63 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03419

Scaphanocephalus-associated dermatitis as the basis for black spot disease in Acanthuridae of St. Kitts, West Indies

Michelle M. Dennis1,*, Adrien Izquierdo1, Anne Conan1, Kelsey Johnson1, Solenne Giardi1,2, Paul Frye1, Mark A. Freeman1

1Center for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts, West Indies
2Department of Sciences and Technology, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Acanthurus spp. of St. Kitts and other Caribbean islands, including ocean surgeonfish A. bahianus, doctorfish A. chirurgus, and blue tang A. coeruleus, frequently show multifocal cutaneous pigmentation. Initial reports from the Leeward Antilles raised suspicion of a parasitic etiology. The aim of this study was to quantify the prevalence of the disease in St. Kitts’ Acanthuridae and describe its pathology and etiology. Visual surveys demonstrated consistently high adjusted mean prevalence at 3 shallow reefs in St. Kitts in 2017 (38.9%, 95% CI: 33.8-43.9) and 2018 (51.5%; 95% CI: 46.2-56.9). There were no differences in prevalence across species or reefs, but juvenile fish were less commonly affected than adults. A total of 29 dermatopathy-affected acanthurids were sampled by spearfishing for comprehensive postmortem examination. Digenean metacercariae were dissected from <1 mm cysts within pigmented lesions. Using partial 28S rDNA sequence data they were classified as Family Heterophyidae, members of which are commonly implicated in black spot disease of other fishes. Morphological features of the parasite were most typical of Scaphanocephalus spp. (Creplin, 1842), and 2 genetic profiles were obtained suggesting more than 1 digenean species. Histologically, pigmented lesions had mild chronic perivascular dermatitis and increased melanophores and melanin density, often centered on encysted digenean metacercariae. In 1 affected A. chirurgus, similar metacercariae were histologically identified in skeletal and cardiac muscle. Further research is needed to clarify impact on host fitness, establish the number of heterophyid digenean species that cause black spots on Caribbean fishes and to determine the intermediate and definitive host species.


KEY WORDS: Scaphanocephalus · Black spot disease · Heterophyidae · Dermatitis · Dermatopathy · Digenean · Pigment


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Cite this article as: Dennis MM, Izquierdo A, Conan A, Johnson K, Giardi S, Frye P, Freeman MA (2019) Scaphanocephalus-associated dermatitis as the basis for black spot disease in Acanthuridae of St. Kitts, West Indies. Dis Aquat Org 137:53-63. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03419

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