, Volume 57, Issue 3-4, pp 262-271
Date: 15 Aug 2003

Parasites of flounder (Platichthys flesus L.) from the German Bight, North Sea, and their potential use in biological effects monitoring

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In the frame of an integrated biological effect monitoring programme, the parasite community of flounder (Platichthys flesus) was investigated at different locations in the German Bight from 1995 to 2000. In order to assess the impact of environmental contamination caused by anthropogenic activities on the parasite community, selected parasitological parameters that displayed significant differences between the sampling sites were subjected to correlation analyses with site-specific contamination and individual pollution loads of their fish hosts. In addition, correlation analyses were conducted with the responses of selected genetic, biochemical, histopathological, physiological and immunological parameters of fish, used as potential biomarkers. In total, 802 flounder were analysed for these parameters. Information on the chemical background at the sampling sites was derived from sediment samples and from 120 samples of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) tissue, collected at each of the sampling sites. Based on chemical data available from the sediment and blue mussel samples, a pollution gradient could be established between the sampling sites for individual contaminants. The relative abundance of Acanthochondria cornuta, Cucullanus heterochrous and Zoogonoides viviparus, and the community measures species richness and number of heteroxenous species decreased with increasing concentrations of individual heavy metals or hydrocarbons in sediment and blue mussel samples. Most of the parasitological parameters significantly reflected the established site-specific contamination gradient, when data were pooled over all sampling campaigns. Significant correlations were also found with the contamination level of individual flounder. The parasitological parameters included the parasite species Lepeophtheirus pectoralis and Lernaeocera branchialis, which were not correlated to site-specific contamination. Several biomarkers were significantly correlated to the abundance of parasitic copepods A. cornuta, Lernaeocera branchialis and Lepeophtheirus pectoralis and to parasite community parameters. The results showed that the abundance of several metazoan parasite species, species richness and parasite diversity were reduced in contaminated habitats, and that differences between sites were not only related to natural factors, such as salinity, but also to pollution-induced stress. Thus, it can be concluded that the parasite community of fish responds to the level of pollution at a specific site as well as to residues of xenobiotics in individual fish. These findings give indications that the parasite community of fish is a valuable parameter for the assessment of ecological consequences of chemical contamination in aquatic habitats.