The use of fish metabolic, pathological and parasitological indices in pollution monitoring
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The complex interactions between parasites, hosts and the environment are influenced by the stability of the ecosystem. Heteroxenous parasites, with complex, multiple-host life cycles, can persist only in habitats where the full range of their required hosts are present. Conversely, in impoverished environments such as those impacted by environmental stress, monoxenous species that have simple, single-host life cycles are likely to predominate. In the present study, we analyzed the ratio between heteroxenous and monoxenous (H/M) parasites as well as parasite species richness (SH/SM) and species diversity in rabbitfish (Siganus rivulatus) collected from several sites in the Red Sea. The rabbitfish is a Suez Canal immigrant, well established in the eastern Mediterranean, and fish were also collected from a site on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Separate treatment of the micro- and macroparasite components of the rabbitfish parasite communities in the Red Sea suggested that macroparasites only – monogenea and gut parasites – were better indicators than the parasite community as a whole. Quantification of macroparasites is accurate, saves time and effort, produces more accurate data and better differentiates between sites. Higher H/M ratios and SH/SM ratios were found in the rabbitfish collected at the ecologically stable habitat of the coral reef compared to rabbitfish from sandy habitat or mariculture-impacted sandy habitat. The results of the study emphasized the negative impacts of cage mariculture on the environment. The rabbitfish collected near the mariculture farms supported the poorest and least diverse parasite communities of all sampled sites, with virtual depletion of heteroxenous species, and even reduction of gill monogenean infections on the hosts. When results from the Mediterranean sites were compared with those of the Red Sea, the data showed full representation of monoxenous parasites (all but one of Red Sea origin), while heteroxenous species were completely absent. We may therefore regard the Mediterranean as a simulation model for a severely environmentally deteriorated, impoverished habitat, in which all or part of the intermediate host species have been depleted, enabling survival of the monoxenous parasite species only. Parasitological investigations were supplemented by testing the activity of cytochrome P 450- dependent mono-oxygenase EROD as a measure of exposure, and lysosomal stability as a measure of toxic effect in the liver of rabbitfish. The results underline the parasitological findings, showing that fish caught at the impacted sandy beach location in the Red Sea have significantly higher EROD activity and a decreased membrane stability compared with animals from the coral reef. In comparison, EROD activity values in rabbitfish from the Mediterranean Sea were double, while lysosomal membrane stability was half that measured at the most impacted Red Sea location.