Occurrence of the parasitic sea lampreyPetromyzon marinus on western North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis

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Few data exist on the marine distribution and host organisms of the parasitic sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. Some observers have speculated that cetaceans serve as hosts for these fish based on scars, but few lamprey – cetacean interactions have been described in detail in the literature. Here we discuss 35 previously unreported records of sea lampreys that were observed while attached to western North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, during the period 1984 – 2002. Of these observations, 11 were photographically documented with images of sufficient quality to identify the lamprey as P. marinus based on morphological characteristics. The majority of the attachments were recorded in the Bay of Fundy during the summer months when P. marinus are preparing to spawn. It is unknown how lampreys might benefit from this association or what cost may be incurred by their right whale hosts. Feeding and transport are two possible reasons for the attachments.

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Nichols, O.C., Hamilton, P.K. Occurrence of the parasitic sea lampreyPetromyzon marinus on western North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis . Environmental Biology of Fishes 71, 413–417 (2004) doi:10.1007/s10641-004-0776-5

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  • cetacean
  • ectoparasite
  • host
  • attachment
  • distribution