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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 143:37-50 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03553

Sea lice Lepeophtheirus spinifer, Tuxophorus sp. and Caligus sp. infections on wild-caught queenfish Scomberoides commersonnianus from northern Australia

B. K. Diggles1,*, L. Barnes2, M. Landos3, M. M. Dennis4,6, J. P. J. O’Carroll5

1DigsFish Services Pty Ltd, Bribie Island, QLD 4507, Australia
2Balgowlah, NSW 2093, Australia
3Future Fisheries Veterinary Service Pty Ltd, East Ballina, NSW 2478, Australia
4Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies
5SLR Consulting NZ Ltd, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
6Present address: Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, TN 27996, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Studies of ectoparasites of wild-caught queenfish Scomberoides commersonnianus from several areas in northern Australia were reviewed to investigate relationships between parasite burdens, environmental conditions and external lesions. A sample of 27 queenfish captured near a dredge spoil disposal site in Gladstone Harbour, Queensland, Australia, in January 2012 was anomalous, with a high percentage of fish (66.6%) exhibiting grossly visible skin lesions including foci of erythema and petechial haemorrhages, particularly on the pectoral girdle and ventrolateral surfaces. Microscopically, lesions comprised acute epidermal erosion, ulceration and/or perivascular dermatitis with dermal oedema and depigmentation. Skin lesions were associated with high prevalence (100%) and intensity (mean = 21.2 copepods fish-1, range 4-46) of infection by sea lice Lepeophtheirus spinifer. Only queenfish infected with >10 L. spinifer presented with skin lesions. This is the first record of L. spinifer from Australia. In contrast, grossly visible skin lesions were not reported from queenfish (n = 152) sampled from other sites in the Northern Territory and Queensland, where the sampled fish had a much lower prevalence (51.3%) and intensity (mean = 3.54, range 0-26) of copepod (L. spinifer, Caligus spp. and Tuxophorus sp.) infections. Copepods from queenfish in studies undertaken outside Gladstone Harbour exhibited an over-dispersed pattern of infection, with the vast majority (n = 137, or 90.1%) of fish infected with <5 copepods. These data demonstrate that heavy L. spinifer infections, combined with poor water quality and/or direct exposure to contaminated dredge spoil and blooms of the cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula, can be associated with cutaneous disease in wild-caught queenfish.


KEY WORDS: Dredge spoil dumping · Environmental monitoring · Lyngbya majuscula · Pathology · Sea lice


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Cite this article as: Diggles BK, Barnes L, Landos M, Dennis MM, O’Carroll JPJ (2021) Sea lice Lepeophtheirus spinifer, Tuxophorus sp. and Caligus sp. infections on wild-caught queenfish Scomberoides commersonnianus from northern Australia. Dis Aquat Org 143:37-50. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03553

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