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Parasites of native and exotic freshwater fishes in south-western Australia

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In this study, 1429 fishes of 18 different species (12 native and six exotic) were sampled from 29 localities to compare the levels of parasitism between native and exotic fish species and to examine the relationship between environmental degradation and parasite diversity. Forty-four putative species of parasites were found and most of these appear to be native parasites, which have not previously been described. Two parasite species, Lernaea cyprinacea and Ligula intestinalis, are probably introduced. Both were found on or in a range of native fish species, where they may cause severe disease. Levels of parasitism and parasite diversity were significantly greater in native fishes than in exotic species, and this may contribute to an enhanced demographic performance and competitive ability in invading exotics. Levels of parasitism and parasite diversity in native fishes were negatively related to habitat disturbance, in particular to a suite of factors that indicate increased human use of the river and surrounding environment. This was due principally to the absence in more disturbed habitats of a number of species of endoparasites with complex life cycles, involving transmission between different host species.

Keywords: exotic invaders; habitat disturbance; parasite diversity; parasite release hypothesis

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Fish Health Unit, Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2010


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