Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 91–98 | Cite as

Is ectoparasite burden related to host density? Evidence from nearshore fish larvae off the coast of central Chile

  • Pamela Palacios-Fuentes
  • Mauricio F. Landaeta
  • María T. González
  • Guido Plaza
  • F. Patricio Ojeda
  • Gabriela Muñoz


Variations in parasite populations may be temporal and/or spatial and can occur in relation to environmental factors. However, such changes may also occur due to differences in host population density, which is one of the main factors that affect the abundance of directly transmitted parasites. Fish larvae and their ectoparasites were collected via ichthyoplankton samplings during a 3-year survey near the coast of central Chile. To estimate the variations in ectoparasite abundance that occurred with fluctuations in host density, the prevalence and intensity of ectoparasites (copepods and isopods) were calculated and compared with the density (i.e., the larval fish abundance standardized to 1,000 m−3) of six species of nearshore fish larvae that belonged to the families Gobiesocidae, Labrisomidae and Tripterygiidae. Copepods (Penellidae and Caligidae) and isopods (Cryptoniscidae) were found to be parasitizing the fish larvae. Pennellid copepods were the most prevalent ectoparasite, and the clingfish Gobiesox marmoratus (Gobiesocidae) was the most parasitized fish species (12.81 %). The individual burdens of pennellid, caligid and isopod ectoparasites failed to exhibit any correlation with the larval densities of four fish species (i.e., Auchenionchus crinitus, Auchenionchus microcirrhis, Sicyases sanguineus and Helcogrammoides chilensis). Nonetheless, the prevalence and intensity of the pennellid copepods exhibited a significant and positive correlation with the density of a gobisesocid species. In contrast, the prevalence of pennellid copepods (5.10 %) exhibited a significant but negative correlation with the density of tripterygid fish. Ectoparasite abundance is a result of a species-specific relationship with their hosts, but the evidence found suggests no correlation between ectoparasite burden and host density in larval fishes from coastal environments.


Host density Tripterygiidae Gobiesocidae Prevalence Pennellidae Caligidae 



This research was funded by projects Fondecyt 1100424, which was adjudicated to FPO, GP and MFL, and Fondecyt 1120868, which was adjudicated to GM, MFL and MTG. We thank Randy Finke, Eduardo González, Jorge Contreras, David Ortiz, Camilo Rodríguez, Carlos González and Cristian Acevedo for assistance with the sampling surveys and the collection of the material and Nicole Jahnsen-Guzmán and Camila Ardiles for their help with the revision of the fish larvae and larval ectoparasites. Thanks are also due to two anonymous reviewers who helped improve the first drafts of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10452_2015_9507_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (90 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 89 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela Palacios-Fuentes
    • 1
  • Mauricio F. Landaeta
    • 1
  • María T. González
    • 2
  • Guido Plaza
    • 3
  • F. Patricio Ojeda
    • 4
  • Gabriela Muñoz
    • 5
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Ictioplancton (LABITI), Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y de Recursos NaturalesUniversidad de ValparaísoViña del MarChile
  2. 2.Instituto de Ciencias Naturales “Alexander von Humboldt”, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Recursos BiológicosUniversidad de AntofagastaAntofagastaChile
  3. 3.Escuela de Ciencias del Mar, Facultad de Recursos NaturalesPontificia Universidad Católica de ValparaísoValparaísoChile
  4. 4.Departamento de EcologíaPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiago de ChileChile
  5. 5.Laboratorio de Parasitología Marina, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y de Recursos NaturalesUniversidad de ValparaísoViña del MarChile

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