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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 68:131-139 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao068131

Interactions among two strains of Tubifex tubifex (Oligochaeta: Tubificidae) and Myxobolus cerebralis (Myxozoa)

Leah C. Steinbach Elwell1, Billie L. Kerans1,*, Charlotte Rasmussen1,2, James R. Winton2

1Montana State University, Department of Ecology, 310 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA
2Western Fisheries Research Center, USGS, 6505 NE 65th Street, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Host–parasite interactions influence host population growth, host evolution and parasite success. We examined the interactions among Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes salmonid whirling disease, and resistant and susceptible strains of the oligochaete host Tubifex tubifex. Strains of T. tubifex with diverse genotypes often coexist in nature and have variable susceptibilities to M. cerebralis infection. Further, parasite proliferation differs by several orders of magnitude among T. tubifex strains. We examined total biomass produced by individual T. tubifex, including progeny production and adult growth, parasite proliferation and prevalence of infection using 2 strains of T. tubifex at 2 myxospore doses in a response-surface experimental design. Total biomass production per individual oligochaete and progeny biomass produced by an individual adult oligochaete were density-dependent for both resistant and susceptible individuals and the effects did not change with the addition of myxospores. However, both resistant and susceptible adults had highest growth when exposed to M. cerebralis. The presence of resistant oligochaetes in mixed cultures did not reduce the infection prevalence or parasite proliferation in susceptible individuals. In natural aquatic communities, resistant strains of T. tubifex may not reduce the effects of M. cerebralis on the salmonid host, particularly if sufficient numbers of susceptible T. tubifex are present.

KEY WORDS:Parasite-mediated competition · Tubifex tubifex · Myxobolus cerebralis · Genetic variation · Whirling disease · Host susceptibility

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