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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Larval salmon lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis exhibit behavioral responses to conspecific pre-adult and adult cues

    Robert D. Morefield*, Heather J. Hamlin

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: In the larval stage of the parasitic copepod Lepeophtheirus salmonis, the free living copepodid must locate and settle on a salmonid host. Chemosensory mechanisms play a role in determining whether a potential host is suitable for attachment, yet the full suite of chemical cues and resulting behavioral mechanisms used are unknown. After maturing, pre-adult female and adult male salmon lice aggregate upon salmonid hosts for reproduction. Copepodid salmon lice have been observed preferentially infesting hosts that harbor conspecific adults. The aim of this study was to investigate the possibility that salmon lice copepodids perceive and respond to cues from pre-adult female, adult-male, and/or gravid female salmon lice. Behavioral bioassays were conducted in vitro with copepodids exposed to water conditioned with three stages of conspecific lice (pre-adult female, adult male, and gravid female), and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar, L.) conditioned seawater. Experiments demonstrated that copepodids exposed to water conditioned with the salmon host, pre-adult female or adult male salmon lice significantly altered their behavior, whereas salmon lice exposed to gravid female conditioned water did not. These results suggest that L. salmonis larvae perceive and respond to the cues of specific lice stages.