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Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) osmoregulatory development plays a key role in sea louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) tolerance

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Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) of fish-farm origin have been implicated in reducing populations of pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in British Columbia’s Broughton Archipelago. Owing to the physically disruptive nature of louse attachment to fish skin in a hyperosmotic environment, we hypothesize that the impacts on fish performance are ionoregulatory in origin. Therefore, ionoregulatory status was measured in juvenile pink salmon artificially infected in the laboratory and naturally infected in the wild. Body [Na+] of laboratory-infected fish (∼1 week seawater (SW); 0.2–0.4 g) increased significantly by 12% with a single chalimus-4 louse, and by 23% with 2–3 chalimus-3 lice. Mortality over this 24-day trial was 2.4% for fish initially infected with 1–3 lice. Body [Na+] for fish caught with natural infections (∼4–12 weeks SW; 0.5–1.5 g) did not differ from uninfected controls. Combining data sets revealed a “no effect” threshold of 0.5 g for body [Na+] of fish infected with one chalimus-4 louse. We propose that this size-related louse tolerance is associated with hypo-osmoregulatory development, adding to a previously suggested multifactorial mechanism based on epidermal and immune system development. We suggest management bodies consider this fish-mass threshold when planning to minimize risk to wild fish populations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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