Larval parasitic copepods affect early life history traits of a temperate clingfish


Larval copepods are frequent parasites that infest fish larvae along the Chilean coast. Because these parasites develop on fish during the early development, when their bodies are fragile and in a recent stage, they can affect the fishes’ early life history traits (ELHT). The goal of this study was to determine the effect of parasitic copepods on the ELHT of the larvae of the clingfish Gobiesox marmoratus (Teleostei: Gobiesocidae) using otolith microstructure analysis. Ichthyoplankton samples were collected during austral winter (July and August 2012), in the inner shelf waters off Valparaiso Bay, central Chile. A total of 95 non-parasitized larvae (NPL) and 95 parasitized (PL) with copepods were randomly selected for subsequent analyses. Parasitized larvae of G. marmoratus were larger than NPL. The right otolith tended to be larger than the left otolith in the fish larvae, but with a higher asymmetry in PL. The PL showed larger otoliths-at-size than the NPL, particularly in smaller larvae (< 8 mm of standard length, SL). Nonetheless, parasitized larvae larger than 8 mm SL showed the opposite trend that is smaller-at-size otoliths than NPL. The Gompertz models indicated that the asymptotic length of NPL doubled the length of PL; this suggests that parasitic copepods affect the maximum size attained by the PL. In conclusion, parasitic copepods negatively affect the ELHT of G. marmoratus larvae and the greater asymmetry can be attributed to parasitism.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This study was financially supported by the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, Grant Fondecyt 1120868, adjudicated to GM, MFL and MT González.

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Correspondence to Gabriela Muñoz.

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Acording to bioethical protocols indicated by Universidad de Valparaíso.

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All applicable institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors as stated in the bioethics instructions given by The Universidad de Valparaiso (Chile).

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Landaeta, M.F., Díaz-Richter, C. & Muñoz, G. Larval parasitic copepods affect early life history traits of a temperate clingfish. Parasitol Res 119, 3977–3985 (2020).

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  • Parasitic copepod
  • Somatic growth
  • Otoliths
  • Clingfish
  • Fish larvae