The sea louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, is an obligate ectoparasitic copepod that lives on the external surface of salmonid fish. It is the most common ectoparasite of marine cage-reared salmonids, causing major economic loss to the aquaculture industry. During a sea louse monitoring programme, samples of L. salmonis were found to harbour an unreported microsporidian parasite. The microsporidian was observed in pre-adult and adult stages of both male and female copepods, with a prevalence of up to 5%. Unfixed spores were slightly pyriform in shape measuring 2.34 μm by 1.83 μm (±0.01 μm) and were not observed to be enclosed by a sporophorous vesicle. The microsporidian infection was observed in all areas of the copepods' body, xenoma-like cysts forming directly under the cuticle in the epidermal tissue layer. In the present study, rDNA (530f-580r) sequence data gathered from the unidentified microsporidian parasite isolated from infected sea lice were compared with equivalents available in the databases in an attempt to identify its systematic position. The microsporidian was found to group within the phylogenetic clade containing the family Enterocytozoonidae, being most similar to members of the intranuclear genus Nucleospora. This is the first report of a hyperparasitic microsporidian infecting a caligid copepod.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science
- veterinary (miscalleneous)