Experimental infection of yellow stingrays with marine leech

Published online on 10. October 2012

Experimental infection of yellow stingrays Urobatis jamaicensis with the marine leech Branchellion torpedinis

David P. Marancik, Alistair D. Dove, Alvin C. Camus


Infestations of elasmobranchs by the marine leech Branchellion torpedinis can be problematic in aquaria and negatively affect host health. To better characterize the extent and pathogenesis of disease, 12 yellow stingrays Urobatis jamaicensis were infected with 1 or 3 leeches for 14 d. Leeches were associated with anorexia, extensive cutaneous ulceration, decreased host packed cell volume (PCV) and serum total solids (TS), and mortality in 3 rays. Average decrease in host PCV positively correlated with ulcer size and parasite:host ratio. Average decrease in host serum TS positively correlated with parasite:host ratio. Blood chemistry and total white blood cell counts revealed no significant trends. Additional necropsy findings included gill and splenic pallor, pericardial edema, perirenal edema, and decreased hepatocellular lipid deposits. Microscopic evaluation of leeches demonstrated host erythrocytes and proteinaceous fluid within parasite intestines, confirming active blood feeding. Results indicate B. torpedinis has the potential to cause significant disease in elasmobranchs, including death in as few as 5 d, and identifies ulcer size and parasite:host ratio as risk factors for disease. Elucidation of this host-parasite interaction helps characterize host response to parasites and facilitate care of parasitized elasmobranchs in aquarium and wild settings.

Disease of Aquatic Organisms, 101:51-60



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