Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 3, pp 725–734 | Cite as

Parasites and headless chaetognaths in the Indian Ocean

Research Article


Typhloscolecid polychaetes, assigned to the genera Typhloscolex (Typhloscolex muelleri) and Travisiopsis (Travisiopsis dubia), feeding on chaetognaths are reported for the first time from the Indian Ocean. These parasitic/predatory polychaetes cause decapitation in the chaetognath Flacisagitta enflata, either by eating the head or by causing injuries to the neck or body. Data from eastern Africa to western India showed a peak of polychaete infestation and decapitation of F. enflata in the Seychelles. A 5% peak occurrence (turnover rate is unknown) of decapitated individuals indicates that this parasitism/predation may have an important impact on local F. enflata populations. The harpacticoid copepod Microsetella norwegica was found feeding on the head and the reproductive organs of F. enflata. Therefore, this copepod may cause both decapitation and castration. Flatworm parasites are reported from the body cavity of F. enflata. Digeneans probably belonging to the genera Aphanurus, Parahemiurus, Accacladocoelium and Opechona, along with the accacoeliid Cercaria owreae and didymozoid metacercariae, were found. Cestode larvae were also recovered. No nematodes were found inside chaetognaths in this study.



We are most grateful to M. Madhupratap, D. Currie, T. Lynch, R. Scheinberg and R. Giesecke for providing the plankton samples from Goa, Kuwait, Rodriguez, Hawaii, and Chile, respectively. We thank M. Cardinale for help during zooplankton sampling, and M. Callow and the Island Development Company for logistic support in the Seychelles. We are also indebted to M.A. Fernández-Álamo for identifying polychaetes, F. Pleijel and M.A. Fernández-Álamo for helpful comments on the manuscript, M. Køie for mounting the internal parasites, and G. Malmberg for use of SEM. Financial support was given by Orvar och Gertrud Nybelins Fond. The work described in this paper was undertaken as part of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)—Royal Society Shoals of Capricorn Programme, western Indian Ocean, 1998–2001. This is Shoals contribution no. P051


  1. Alvarino A (1965) Chaetognaths. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 3:115–194Google Scholar
  2. Bieri R (1991) Systematics of the Chaetognatha. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of the chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 122–136Google Scholar
  3. Bray RA, Gibson DI (1977) The Accacoeliidae (Digenea) of fishes from the north-east Atlantic. Bull Br Mus Nat Hist Zool Ser 31:53–99Google Scholar
  4. Bray RA, Gibson DI (1990) The Lepocreadiidae (Digenea) of fishes of the north-east Atlantic: review of the genera Opechona Looss, 1907 and Prodistomum Linton, 1910. Syst Parasitol 15:159–202Google Scholar
  5. Dollfus R (1960) Distomes des Chaetognathes. Bull Inst Péches Marit Maroc 4:1–27Google Scholar
  6. Duvert M, Perez Y, Casanova J-P (2000) Wound healing and survival of beheaded chaetognaths. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 80:891–898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feigenbaum DL (1979) Predation on chaetognaths by typhloscolecid polychaetes: one explanation for headless specimens. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 59:631–633Google Scholar
  8. Feigenbaum DL (1991) Food and feeding behaviour. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 45–54Google Scholar
  9. Feigenbaum DL, Maris RC (1984) Feeding in the Chaetognatha. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 22:343–392Google Scholar
  10. Fernández-Álamo MA (2004) Distribution of holoplanctonic typhloscolecids (Annelida-Polychaeta) in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. J Plankton Res 26:647–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gómez del Prado-Rosas M del C, Alvarez-Cadena JN, Segura-Puertas L, Lamothe-Argumedo R (1999a) First record of Torticaecum sp. (Trematoda: Didymozoidae) in the chaetognath Serratosagitta serratodentata (Krohn, 1853) from Caribbean waters. J Plankton Res 21:1005–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gómez del Prado-Rosas M del C, Alvarez-Cadena JN, Segura-Puertas L, Lamothe-Argumedo R (1999b) New records, hosts, and SEM observations on Cercaria owreae (Hutton, 1954) from the Mexican Caribbean Sea. J Helminth Soc Wash 66:194–197Google Scholar
  13. Hutchings PA, Wilson RS, Glasby CJ, Paxton H, Watson Russel C (2000) Appendix 1. In The Southern Synthesis. Fauna Australia, vol 4A. In: Beesley PL, Ross GJB, Glasby CJ (eds) Polychaetes and Allies. CSIRO, Melbourne, pp 242–243Google Scholar
  14. Kasturirangan LR (1963) A key for the identification of the more common planktonic copepoda of Indian coastal waters. Counc Sci Ind Res New Delhi 2:1–87Google Scholar
  15. Michel HB, Behbehani M, Herring D, Arar M, Shoushani M, Brakoniecki T (1986) Zooplankton diversity, distribution and abundance in Kuwait waters. Kuwait Bull Mar Sci 8:37–105Google Scholar
  16. Nagasawa S (1986) Will head-damaged chaetognaths become headless? J Plankton Res 8:1217–1220Google Scholar
  17. Nagasawa S (1987) Ecological interrelationships of zooplankton in Tokyo Bay. Le Mar Soc Franco Jpn Océan Tokyo 25:161–166Google Scholar
  18. Nagasawa S (1991) Parasitism and diseases in chaetognaths. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 76–85Google Scholar
  19. Nagasawa S, Marumo R (1981) Chaetognaths as food of demersal fishes in the East China Sea. Bull Seikai Reg Fish Res Lab 56:1–13Google Scholar
  20. Nair VR (1977) Chaetognaths of the Indian Ocean. Proc Symp Warm Water Zoopl Spec Publ UNESCO/NIO Goa:168–195Google Scholar
  21. Øresland V (1986) Parasites of the chaetognath Sagitta setosa in the western English Channel. Mar Biol 92:87–91Google Scholar
  22. Øresland V (1995) Winter population structure and feeding of the chaetognath Eukrohnia hamata and the copepod Euchaeta antarctica in Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 119:77–86Google Scholar
  23. Øresland V (2000) Diel feeding of the chaetognath Sagitta enflata in the Zanzibar Channel, western Indian Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 193:117–123Google Scholar
  24. Øresland V, Pleijel F (1991) An ectoparasitic typhloscolecid polychaete on the chaetognath Eukrohnia hamata from the Antarctic Peninsula. Mar Biol 108:429–432Google Scholar
  25. Overstreet RM (1969) Digenetic trematodes of marine teleost fishes from Biscayne Bay, Florida. Tulane Stud Zool Bot 15:119–176Google Scholar
  26. Owre HB, Foyo M (1967) Copepods of the Florida Current. Fauna Carib 1:1–137Google Scholar
  27. Pearre S (1991) Growth and reproduction. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 61–75Google Scholar
  28. Pierrot-Bults AC (1990) Diseases of Chaetognatha. Diseases of marine animals. Kinne O Hamburg Biol Anst Helgol III:425–437Google Scholar
  29. Pierrot-Bults AC, Nair VR (1991) Distribution patterns in Chaetognatha. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 86–116Google Scholar
  30. Rakusa-Suszczewski S (1968) Predation of Chaetognatha by Tomopteris helgolandica Greff. J Cons Perm Int Explor Mer 32:226–231Google Scholar
  31. Raymont JEG (1983) Plankton and productivity in the oceans. Zooplankton 2:1–824Google Scholar
  32. Robinson VC (1934) A new species of accacoeliid trematode (Accacladocoelium alveolatum n. sp.) from the intestine of the sun-fish (Orthagoriscus mola Bloch). Parasitology 26:346–351Google Scholar
  33. Rouse GW, Pleijel F (2001) Polychaetes. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  34. Shimazu T (1978) Some helminth parasites of the Chaetognatha from Suruga Bay, central Japan. Bull Natl Sci Mus Tokyo Ser A Zool 4:105-116Google Scholar
  35. Shimazu T (1982) Some helminth parasites of marine planktonic invertebrates. J Nagano-ken Junior College 37:11–29Google Scholar
  36. Shimazu T (1991) Notes on three helminth parasites of Sagitta bedoti (Chaetognatha) from West Bengal, India. J Nagano Prefectural College 46:1–8Google Scholar
  37. Thomson JM (1947) The Chaetognatha of south-eastern Australia. Bull Counc Sci Ind Res (Div Fish Rep 14) 222:1–43Google Scholar
  38. Thuesen EV (1991) The tetrodotoxin venom of chaetognaths. In: Bone Q, Kapp H, Pierrot-Bults AC (eds) The biology of chaetognaths. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 55–60Google Scholar
  39. Turner JT (2004) The importance of small planktonic copepods and their roles in pelagic marine food webs. Zool Stud 43:255–266Google Scholar
  40. UNESCO (1968) Zooplankton sampling. Monogr Oceanogr Methodol 2:1–174Google Scholar
  41. Uye S, Aoto I, Onbé T (2002) Seasonal population dynamics and production of Microsetella norwegica, a widely distributed but little-studied marine planktonic harpacticoid copepod. J Plankton Res 24:143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine ResearchNational Board of FisheriesLysekilSweden
  2. 2.Parasitic Worms Division, Department of ZoologyThe Natural History MuseumLondon UK

Personalised recommendations