Interspecific comparison of experimental and natural routes of Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus elongatsu challenge and consequences for distribution of chalimus on salmonids and therapeutant screening.

Jim W Treasurer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


Although the gills have been reported as a site for settlement by sea lice attached stages in experimental challenges, the prevalence and abundance of infection on gills have not been reported in farmed fish and have been reported only rarely in wild salmonids. Disproportionate attachment to the gills may be significant in evaluation of new therapeutants and this study asks whether the efficacy data from studies of therapeutants based on experimental challenge can be extrapolated to the fish farm arena. The distribution of chalimus on gills, body and fins of farmed first sea year Atlantic salmon were examined in two Scottish sea lochs, each on two occasions (30 fish on each sampling date), fish from one farm with infection with Lepeophtheirus salmonis only and the other farm with exclusively Caligus elongatus. The dorsal fin was the primary attachment site of L. salmonis (50% and 33% in two samples respectively) with 29% and 32% on other fins and 20% and 29% on the body and head. Only one of 56 chalimus (1.8%) and four of 75 chalimus (5.3%) were attached to the gills. In contrast, the chalimus distribution of C. elongatus was predominantly on fins other than the dorsal, including the tail, 74% and 71%, on two sampling occasions, respectively, with only 4.2% and 3.6% of chalimus located on the dorsal fin. The pectoral fins were the most common location with 32%, followed by the tail 23%, pelvic fins 14% and only 3% on the anal fin. None of 287 and 111 chalimus in two samples, respectively, of C. elongatus was attached to the gills. The low abundance of lice on the gills indicated that non-destructive sampling methods adequately represented lice infection. In three experimental challenges with L. salmonis, the gills were a major attachment location with 19.9-36.3% of chalimus, 9.9-26.9% on the body, 22-27% on the dorsal fin and 19-23% on the other fins. These differences with natural challenge in L. salmonis reported here and also in the literature suggest that the importance of the gills for chalimus location in the experimental model is atypical and an artefact of reduced host swimming speed in tanks that permits copepodids to attach to the gills. In natural infection, the flow over the gills is high and reduced flow is required for copepodid settlement. Greatest reductions (96%) in chalimus bath treated with cypermethrin occurred on the gills with no significant reductions in those located on the dorsal and other fins. It is possible that the efficacy of therapeutants may be higher in chalimus attached to the gills because of the higher concentration encountered of bath therapeutant and extrapolation of efficacy to farms may be misleading and progression to field testing is essential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-783
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004




Cite this