The effects of a parasitic copepod on the recent larval growth of a fish inhabiting rocky coasts

Pamela Palacios-Fuentes, Mauricio F. Landaeta, Gabriela Muñoz, GUIDO PLAZA PASTEN, F. Patricio Ojeda

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24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Parasites can infect larval, juvenile or adult marine fishes; however, the effects of parasites on the growth and condition of fish larvae have seldom been investigated. This study analysed the effects of a parasitic copepod on the larval growth of the Chilean triplefin Helcogrammoides chilensis (Tripterygiidae) based on the microstructure of the sagittal otoliths. Fish larvae were collected during the austral spring of 2010 off central Chile. Their body length ranged from 5.1 to 16.6 mm (2 to 57 days old). They were parasitised by a penellid larval copepod that was always externally attached to the ventral side of the fish's gut. The prevalence of the copepod ranged from 2.7 % to 20.8 %, with one to four parasites per fish larva. Relationships between otolith size (radius, perimeter) and larval size were equal for parasitised and unparasitised fish larvae (P>0.05). Larval growth was also similar for unparasitised (0.21 mm/ day) and parasitised fish larvae (0.19 mm/day) (P>0.05). However, a comparison of same-aged larvae showed that the larvae with copepods were smaller in both length and estimated body volume than the larvae without copepods. The Recent Otolith Growth Index, indicated that larval H. chilensis with copepods showed a reduction in recent growth and condition compared with those without evidence of copepods (P<0.05). Nevertheless, a higher parasite load (two vs. one pennellids) did not decrease the condition of the larval fish. The infestation of pennellids on coastal fish larvae may therefore induce an increase in the pelagic larval duration and potentially affect the settlement rates of this intertidal fish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1671
Number of pages11
JournalParasitology Research
Volume111
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2012

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