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Soleidae macroparasites along the Portuguese coast: latitudinal variation and host–parasite associations
Marques, J.F.; Santos, M.J.; Cabral, H.N. (2006). Soleidae macroparasites along the Portuguese coast: latitudinal variation and host–parasite associations. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 150(2): 285-298. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-006-0339-8
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Marques, J.F.
  • Santos, M.J.
  • Cabral, H.N.

Abstract
    Parasite assemblages are increasingly being used as indicators of their hosts’ biology and ecology, especially for economically important marine species such as the Soleidae. In this study, seven species inhabiting Portuguese coastal waters were examined for external and internal macroparasite infections using standard procedures: Dicologlossa cuneata, Microchirus azevia, Microchirus variegatus, Solea lascaris, Solea senegalensis, Solea solea and Synaptura lusitanica. Despite being closely related, these species present different life history patterns and ecological preferences which were expected to be mirrored by their macroparasite assemblages. The aim of the study was, therefore, to study the variation of these assemblages, within and between host species, along the Portuguese coast in order to evaluate the importance of the hosts’ features and environmental factors in the assemblage compositions. Flatfish were obtained seasonally from commercial fishing vessels operating in three areas (northern, central and southern) along the Portuguese coast. Prevalence and mean abundance were calculated and tested for differences between host sex, areas and seasons. The host specificity index and the importance of the host–parasite relationship were computed based on mean abundance. The total number of parasite individuals, species richness, total prevalence, total mean abundance, diversity and evenness were also calculated. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) was performed using prevalence and mean abundance data. A total of 44 macroparasite species were found. No significant differences were observed in prevalence and mean abundance between sexes and sampling seasons but, for three of the parasite species, significant differences were found between areas. The highest values of the parasitological and ecological indices were generally registered in the hosts S. lascaris and S. senegalensis and in the southern area. The CCA using the prevalence data revealed the differentiation of S. lascaris samples, which was mainly related to the total prevalence and to the number of important species of macroparasites. When using mean abundance data, the CCA revealed the differentiation of D. cuneata from the south, S. lascaris from the three areas and S. senegalensis from the south, mainly related to total prevalence and richness. The differences found between infection levels and assemblages’ composition were mainly due to differences in hosts’ diet, namely prey type consumption, given that most macroparasites found were transmitted through the food web. However, environmental factors were also important given that they regulate the distribution of ectoparasites and the availability of prey, and therefore the infections’ pattern. These findings were in agreement with the ones from similar studies performed in other species, revealing the importance of parasites as indicators of their hosts’ ecology.

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