Using the giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) mass breeding aggregation to explore the life cycle of dicyemid parasites
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- Catalano, S.R., Whittington, I.D., Donnellan, S.C. et al. Acta Parasit. (2013) 58: 599. doi:10.2478/s11686-013-0186-y
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Dicyemid mesozoan parasites, microscopic organisms found with high intensities in the renal appendages of benthic cephalopods, have a complex, partially unknown life cycle. It is uncertain at which host life cycle stage (i.e. eggs, juvenile, adult) new infection by the dispersive infusoriform embryo occurs. As adult cephalopods have a short lifespan and die shortly after reproducing only once, and juveniles are fast-moving, we hypothesize that the eggs are the life cycle stage where new infection occurs. Eggs are abundant and sessile, allowing a huge number of new individuals to be infected with low energy costs, and they also provide dicyemids with the maximum amount of time for survival compared with infection of juvenile and adult stages. In our study we collected giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) eggs at different stages of development and filtered seawater samples from the S. apama mass breeding aggregation area in South Australia, Australia, and tested these samples for the presence of dicyemid DNA. We did not recover dicyemid parasite cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) nucleotide sequences from any of the samples, suggesting eggs are not the stage where new infection occurs. To resolve this unknown in the dicyemid life cycle, we believe experimental infection is needed.