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Differentially susceptible host fishes exhibit similar chemo-attractiveness to a common coral reef Ectoparasite

Abstract

Gnathiid isopods are common crustacean parasites that inhabit all oceans from shorelines to depths of over 3000 m and use chemical cues to find their marine fish hosts. While gnathiids are host-generalists, hosts vary in their susceptibility to infestation. However, the mechanisms that mediate differential susceptibility are unknown. Here we used a combination of field and laboratory experiments to investigate if the chemical attractiveness of hosts explains differences in susceptibility of Caribbean reef fishes to infestation by a common Caribbean gnathiid isopod, Gnathia marleyi. We showed that while G. marleyi can detect and locate hosts using only chemical cues, they do not exhibit a preference for chemical cues produced by more susceptible fish species. We conclude that species-specific chemical cues are not the main mechanism driving differences in host susceptibility to gnathiid isopod infestation and that visual or post-attachment factors such as ease of obtaining a blood meal are likely mediators.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff of the University of the Virgin Islands’ McLean Marine Science Center for logistical support. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (OCE–1536794 to PCS) and Arkansas State University (A-State Student Research & Creativity Grant to CV). We thank the editors and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on the manuscript. This is contribution number 222 from the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies.

Availability of data and material

The data that support the findings of this study are available as supplemental material.

Funding

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (OCE–1536794 to PCS) and Arkansas State University (A-State Student Research & Creativity Grant to CV).

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PCS & CV contributed to this study’s conception, and all authors contributed to the study’s design. Field and laboratory experiments and data analysis were performed by CV & AJP. The first draft of the manuscript was written by CV, with all authors providing significant input and approval for publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul C. Sikkel.

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All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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The code used in the statistical analysis of this study is available from the corresponding author, PCS, upon reasonable request.

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Vondriska, C., Dixson, D.L., Packard, A.J. et al. Differentially susceptible host fishes exhibit similar chemo-attractiveness to a common coral reef Ectoparasite. Symbiosis 81, 247–253 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13199-020-00700-0

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Keywords

  • Gnathiid isopods
  • Parasite
  • Chemical cues
  • Host attraction
  • Host finding
  • Caribbean