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Host, seasonal and habitat influences on the incidence of Lernaeenicus radiatus (Copepoda: Pennellidae) in the mid-Atlantic Bight of the northwest Atlantic Ocean

Jan Lovy*, Nicole L. Lewis, Sarah E. Friend, Kenneth W. Able, Margaret J. Shaw, Gregory S. Hinks, Peter J. Clarke

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Lernaeenicus radiatus is a pennellid copepod with a two-host life cycle with high host-specificity to their first host, black sea bass, Centropristis striata. The parasite was prevalent in the gills of black sea bass throughout the study period, from April to December, in juvenile and adult populations along the coast of New Jersey, USA. Parasite incidence was high in the summer and fall in near-shore areas and dropped significantly in fish from deep waters further off-shore in December. Lernaeenicus radiatus infection increased with black sea bass total length. Heavy infections of L. radiatus occurred in gills of adult black sea bass inhabiting reef-associated structure, in which parasite incidence rate was 2 to 3.7 times higher than in non-structure habitat. Metamorphosed females on the second host showed less host-specificity. Seven species of fish were confirmed as second hosts, with four being novel, including silver perch, Bairdiella chrysoura; naked goby, Gobiosoma bosc; summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus; and Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus. The most common second hosts were Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus and bay anchovy, Anchoa mitchilli. The anchor process of metamorphosed females of L. radiatus was highly polymorphic with the structure depending on tissue type infected. Parasite length showed considerable variation, with neck and trunk measurements of L. radiatus from adult menhaden being 2-4 times larger than other smaller host species. Mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase c subunit I (COI) sequences demonstrated all parasites to be L. radiatus, despite the polymorphisms. Sequence divergence within the COI gene was limited to 0.3% in this population.