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Variation in occurrence of the fish-parasitic cymothoid isopod, Anilocra haemuli, infecting French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum) in the north-eastern Caribbean

Rachel L. Welicky A and Paul C. Sikkel A B

A Department of Biological Sciences, Arkansas State University, PO Box 599, State University, AR 72467, USA.
B Corresponding author. Email: psikkel@astate.edu

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13306
Submitted: 20 November 2013  Accepted: 2 March 2014   Published online: 1 October 2014


 
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Abstract

Parasites constitute the majority of coral reef animal diversity and are believed to contribute significantly to host, community and trophic dynamics. Anilocra spp. are large conspicuous ectoparasitic isopods, making them ideal models for host–parasite studies. In the tropical western Atlantic and Caribbean, Anilocra haemuli infects the ecologically important French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum). French grunt are trophic connectors between reef and seagrass environments, and how A. haemuli infection influences connectivity is unknown. As a first step in understanding the French grunt–A. haemuli association, we conducted reef surveys during three consecutive years to quantify the abundance and prevalence of infected fish on reef sites in the north-eastern Caribbean. We examined their correlations with fish population and aggregation size, and social affiliation. Annual infected fish abundance and prevalence per site ranged from 0–24 fish and 0–66%. Prevalence: (1) appeared autocorrelated within bays among years; (2) was inversely correlated with population and aggregation size, although the statistical significance varied; and (3) was greater for solitary than aggregating fish. Our study provides the most comprehensive dataset for prevalence of any Anilocra spp., and the necessary baseline data for future studies on Anilocra–host dynamics, and the effect of parasites on trophic and habitat connectivity.

Additional keywords: coral reef, dilution effect, fish aggregation, Haemulidae.


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