, Volume 57, Issue 3-4, pp 220-227
Date: 26 Apr 2003

Use of fish parasite species richness indices in analyzing anthropogenically impacted coastal marine ecosystems

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The diversity of fish parasite life history strategies makes these species sensitive bioindicators of aquatic ecosystem health. While monoxenous (single-host) species may persist in highly perturbed, extreme environments, this is not necessarily true for heteroxenous (multiple-host) species. As many parasites possess complex life cycles and are transmitted through a chain of host species, their dependency on the latter to complete their life cycles renders them sensitive to perturbed environments. In the present study, parasite communities of grey mullet Liza aurata and Liza ramada (Mugilidae) were investigated at two Mediterranean coastal sites in northern Israel: the highly polluted Kishon Harbor (KH) and the relatively unspoiled reference site, Ma'agan Michael (MM). Both are estuarine sites in which grey mullet are one of the most common fish species. The results indicate that fish at the polluted site had significantly less trematode metacercariae than fish at the reference site. Heteroxenous gut helminths were completely absent at the polluted sampling site. Consequently, KH fish displayed lower mean parasite species richness. At the same time, KH fish mean monoxenous parasite richness was higher, although the prevalence of different monoxenous taxa was variable. Copepods had an increased prevalence while monogenean prevalence was significantly reduced at the polluted site. This variability may be attributed to the differential susceptibility of the parasites to the toxicity of different pollutants, their concentration, the exposure time and possible synergistic effects. In this study, we used the cumulative species curve model that extrapolates "true" species richness of a given habitat as a function of increasing sample size. We considered the heteroxenous and monoxenous species separately for each site, and comparison of curves yielded significant results. It is proposed to employ this approach, originally developed for estimating the "true" parasite species richness for a given habitat, in the characterization of communities of differentially impacted coastal marine ecosystems.

Communicated by H. von Westernhagen, A. Diamant