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Concept: Salmon louse


The impact of salmon lice on the survival of migrating Atlantic salmon smolts was studied by comparing the adult returns of sea-ranched smolts treated for sea lice using emamectin benzoate or substance EX with untreated control groups in the River Dale in western Norway. A total of 143 500 smolts were released in 35 release groups in freshwater from 1997 to 2009 and in the fjord system from 2007 to 2009. The adult recaptures declined gradually with release year and reached minimum levels in 2007. This development corresponded with poor marine growth and increased age at maturity of ranched salmon and in three monitored salmon populations and indicated unfavourable conditions in the Norwegian Sea. The recapture rate of treated smolts was significantly higher than the controls in three of the releases performed: the only release in 1997, one of three in 2002 and the only group released in sea water in 2007. The effect of treating the smolts against salmon lice was smaller than the variability in return rates between release groups, and much smaller that variability between release years, but its overall contribution was still significant (P < 0.05) and equivalent to an odds ratio of the probability of being recaptured of 1.17 in favour of the treated smolts. Control fish also tended to be smaller as grilse (P = 0.057), possibly due to a sublethal effect of salmon lice.

Concepts: Parasites, Salmon, Norway, Atlantic salmon, Salmo, Tasmania, Sea louse, Salmon louse


Salmon lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, are naturally occurring parasites of salmon in sea water. Intensive salmon farming provides better conditions for parasite growth and transmission compared with natural conditions, creating problems for both the salmon farming industry and, under certain conditions, wild salmonids. Salmon lice originating from farms negatively impact wild stocks of salmonids, although the extent of the impact is a matter of debate. Estimates from Ireland and Norway indicate an odds ratio of 1.1:1-1.2:1 for sea lice treated Atlantic salmon smolt to survive sea migration compared to untreated smolts. This is considered to have a moderate population regulatory effect. The development of resistance against drugs most commonly used to treat salmon lice is a serious concern for both wild and farmed fish. Several large initiatives have been taken to encourage the development of new strategies, such as vaccines and novel drugs, for the treatment or removal of salmon lice from farmed fish. The newly sequenced salmon louse genome will be an important tool in this work. The use of cleaner fish has emerged as a robust method for controlling salmon lice, and aquaculture production of wrasse is important towards this aim. Salmon lice have large economic consequences for the salmon industry, both as direct costs for the prevention and treatment, but also indirectly through negative public opinion.

Concepts: Parasites, Fish, Salmon, Aquaculture, Fish farming, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Salmon aquaculture in Scotland continues to increase; however, one of the potential limitations to its further sustainable growth is the ectoparasitic sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. The industry in Scotland undertakes coordinated management procedures to control the levels of sea lice on farms in designated production areas. We developed a biophysical sea lice dispersal model for Loch Linnhe, one of the largest fjords on the west coast of Scotland, to provide further information to help establish more effective farm management areas. We successfully extend modelling principles previously applied to a small Scottish fjordic system. Modelling scenarios demonstrate heterogeneity in the distribution of sea lice within the system and simulations, suggesting that lice could be transmitted up to 30 km. The scenarios are assessed by comparing model predictions against lice sampled by both planktonic trawls and settlement on sentinel caged fish. The model predicts the ranked abundance of both planktonic and settled lice assuming that the lice input to the system is relative to host biomass. Data collection is ongoing for undertaking and assessing additional scenarios.

Concepts: Crustacean, Salmon, Aquaculture, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Caligid sea lice represent a significant threat to salmonid aquaculture worldwide. Population genetic analyses have consistently shown minimal population genetic structure in North Atlantic Lepeophtheirus salmonis, frustrating efforts to track louse populations and improve targeted control measures. The aim of this study was to test the power of reduced representation library sequencing (IIb-RAD sequencing) coupled with random forest machine learning algorithms to define markers for fine-scale discrimination of louse populations. We identified 1286 robustly supported SNPs among four L. salmonis populations from Ireland, Scotland and Northern Norway. Only weak global structure was observed based on the full SNP dataset. The application of a random forest machine-learning algorithm identified 98 discriminatory SNPs that dramatically improved population assignment, increased global genetic structure and resulted in significant genetic population differentiation. A large proportion of SNPs found to be under directional selection were also identified to be highly discriminatory. Our data suggest that it is possible to discriminate between nearby L. salmonis populations given suitable marker selection approaches, and that such differences might have an adaptive basis. We discuss these data in light of sea lice adaption to anthropogenic and environmental pressures as well as novel approaches to track and predict sea louse dispersal.

Concepts: DNA, Algorithm, Salmon, Machine learning, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Parasitic infections by the salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer), cause huge economic damage in salmon farming in the northern hemisphere, with combined treatment costs and production losses in 2014 having been estimated at US$ 350 million for Norway (annual production 1.25 million tonnes). The control of L. salmonis relies significantly on medicinal treatments, supplemented by non-pharmacological approaches. However, efficacy losses have been reported for several delousing agents, including the pyrethroid deltamethrin. The aim of the present study was to analyse the genetic basis of deltamethrin resistance in L. salmonis. Deltamethrin median effective concentrations (EC50) were 0.28 μg L-1 in the drug susceptible L. salmonis strain IoA-00 and 40.1 μg L-1 in the pyrethroid resistant strain IoA-02. IoA-00 and IoA-02 were crossed to produce families spanning one parental and three filial generations (P0, F1-F3). In three families derived from P0 crosses between an IoA-00 sire and an IoA-02 dam, 98.8% of F2 parasites (n = 173) were resistant, i.e. remained unaffected after exposure to 2.0 μg L-1 deltamethrin. F3 parasites from these crosses showed a deltamethrin EC50 of 9.66 μg L-1. In two families of the inverse orientation at P0 (IoA-02 sire x IoA-00 dam), 16.7% of F2 parasites were resistant (n = 84), while the deltamethrin EC50 in F3 animals was 0.26 μg L-1. The results revealed a predominantly maternal inheritance of deltamethrin resistance. The 15,947-nt mitochondrial genome was sequenced and compared among six unrelated L. salmonis strains and parasites sampled from wild salmon in 2010. IoA-02 and three further deltamethrin resistant strains, established from isolates originating from different regions of Scotland, showed almost identical mitochondrial haplotypes. In contrast, the mitochondrial genome was variable among susceptible strains and L. salmonis from wild hosts. Deltamethrin caused toxicity and depletion of whole body ATP levels in IoA-00 but not IoA-02 parasites. The maternal inheritance of deltamethrin resistance and its association with mitochondrial haplotypes suggests that pyrethroid toxicity in L. salmonis may involve molecular targets encoded by mitochondrial genes.

Concepts: Genetics, Parasites, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial DNA, Antibiotic resistance, Salmon, Sea louse, Salmon louse


A major challenge for Atlantic salmon farming in the northern hemisphere is infestation by the sea louse parasite Lepeophtheirus salmonis. The most frequent method of controlling these sea louse infestations is through the use of chemical treatments. However, most major salmon farming areas have observed resistance to common chemotherapeutants. In terrestrial environments, many strategies employed to manage the evolution of resistance involve the use of refugia, where a portion of the population is left untreated to maintain susceptibility. While refugia have not been deliberately used in Atlantic salmon farming, wild salmon populations that migrate close to salmon farms may act as natural refugia. In this paper we describe an agent-based model that explores the influence of different sizes of wild salmon populations on resistance evolution in sea lice on a salmon farm. Using the model, we demonstrate that wild salmon populations can act as refugia that limit the evolution of resistance in the sea louse populations. Additionally, we demonstrate that an increase in the size of the population of wild salmon results in an increased effect in slowing the evolution of resistance. We explore the effect of a population fitness cost associated with resistance, finding that in some cases it substantially reduces the speed of evolution to chemical treatments.

Concepts: Salmon, Pacific Ocean, Farm, Aquaculture, Fish farming, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


Antiparasitic drugs such as emamectin benzoate (EMB) are relied upon to reduce the parasite load, particularly of the sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis, on farmed salmon. The decline in EMB treatment efficacy for this purpose is an important issue for salmon producers around the world, and particularly for those in the Atlantic Ocean where widespread EMB tolerance in sea lice is recognized as a significant problem. Salmon farms in the Northeast Pacific Ocean have not historically experienced the same issues with treatment efficacy, possibly due to the relatively large population of endemic salmonid hosts that serve to both redistribute surviving lice and dilute populations potentially under selection by introducing naïve lice to farms. Frequent migration of lice among farmed and wild hosts should limit the effect of farm-specific selection pressures on changes to the overall allele frequencies of sea lice in the Pacific Ocean. A previous study using microsatellites examined L. salmonis oncorhynchi from 10 Pacific locations from wild and farmed hosts and found no population structure. Recently however, a farm population of sea lice was detected where EMB bioassay exposure tolerance was abnormally elevated. In response, we have developed a Pacific louse draft genome that complements the previously-released Atlantic louse sequence. These genomes were combined with whole-genome re-sequencing data to design a highly sensitive 201,279 marker SNP array applicable for both subspecies (90,827 validated Pacific loci; 153,569 validated Atlantic loci). Notably, kmer spectrum analysis of the re-sequenced samples indicated that Pacific lice exhibit a large within-individual heterozygosity rate (average of 1 in every 72 bases) that is markedly higher than that of Atlantic individuals (1 in every 173 bases). The SNP chip was used to produce a high-density map for Atlantic sea louse linkage group 5 that was previously shown to be associated with EMB tolerance in Atlantic lice. Additionally, 478 Pacific louse samples from farmed and wild hosts obtained between 2005 and 2014 were also genotyped on the array. Clustering analysis allowed us to detect the apparent emergence of an otherwise rare genotype at a high frequency among the lice collected from two farms in 2013 that had reported elevated EMB tolerance. This genotype was not observed in louse samples collected from the same farm in 2010, nor in any lice sampled from other locations prior to 2013. However, this genotype was detected at low frequencies in louse samples from farms in two locations reporting elevated EMB tolerance in 2014. These results suggest that a rare genotype present in Pacific lice may be locally expanded in farms after EMB treatment. Supporting this hypothesis, 437 SNPs associated with this genotype were found to be in a region of linkage group 5 that overlaps the region associated with EMB resistance in Atlantic lice. Finally, five of the top diagnostic SNPs within this region were used to screen lice that had been subjected to an EMB survival assay, revealing a significant association between these SNPs and EMB treatment outcome. To our knowledge this work is the first report to identify a genetic link to altered EMB efficacy in L. salmonis in the Pacific Ocean.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Salmon, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Marine debris, Equator, Sea louse, Salmon louse


The salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) is an important parasite of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). It is widely spread in aquaculture facilities and leads to economic losses every year. As it has developed resistances against many common treatments, new control methods must be established. Here we characterize a novel gene family of the salmon louse, consisting of two genes, which has not been described in other species before. We analyzed temporal expression patterns of both genes, the localization of mRNA and protein. An RNAi mediated gene knockdown lead to information about the function of the protein. Overall, these two genes are expressed only in sperm ducts of male sea lice. The mucin-like proteins can additionally be found in the wall of spermatophores, which are responsible for sperm transfer to females. Knockdown showed that both genes are essential for successful fertilization of females. Overall, all results indicate that the two analyzed genes are necessary for reproduction in sea lice as they are essential for the formation of a wall surrounding the spermatophores, which is needed for fertilization. Therefore, we name them Mucin-like spermatophore wall protein 1 & 2 (MLSWP1 & MLSWP2). Analysis of sequence data from other copepod species suggests that MLSWPs are present in many copepod species and may also play a similar role in reproduction in those species. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Reproduction, RNA, Salmon, Salmon louse


The sea louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, is parasitic to salmonid species in the Northern Hemisphere and has become a widespread biological and economic problem for the salmon farming industry. A better understanding is needed of their spatial distribution and early life history to disrupt the life cycle of the sea louse. In this study, sea lice larval densities within salmon farms, between salmon farms and reference sites, and at various depths were quantified using both plankton pumps and plankton nets. Farm sites exhibited significantly higher densities than reference sites; however, these densities dropped an order of magnitude at a distance of 100 m from the cages. The majority of the larvae captured in the study were nauplii (93%), and densities ranged from 0 to 10 larvae/m(3) . Free-swimming sea lice larvae were found to exhibit a diel cycle where nauplii larvae were in deeper waters (10-17 m) during the day and in surface waters (1-6 m) during the night. The results of this study suggest that the early life-history stages of sea lice originate from and may remain close to active salmon farms, creating a self-sustaining population.

Concepts: Crustacean, Salmon, Farm, Aquaculture, Fish farming, Sea louse, Salmon louse, Aquaculture of salmon


So-called ‘cleaner fish’, including various wrasse (Labridae) species, have become increasingly popular in Norwegian salmon farming in recent years for biocontrol of the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. Cleaner fish mortalities in salmon farms are, however, often high. Various bacterial agents are frequently associated with episodes of increased cleaner fish mortality, and Vibrio tapetis is regularly cultured from diseased wrasse. In the present study, we investigated the genetic relationships among 54 V. tapetis isolates (34 from wrasse species) by multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA; rpoD, ftsZ, pyrH, rpoA and atpA). In the resulting phylogenetic tree, all wrasse isolates belonged to sub-clusters within V. tapetis subsp. tapetis. Slide agglutination testing further confirmed the complete dominance amongst these isolates of 4 O-antigen serotypes, designated here as V. tapetis subsp. tapetis serotypes O1, O3, O4 and O5, respectively. A pilot challenge trial using serotypes O3, O4 and O5 did not indicate high pathogenicity towards ballan wrasse Labrus bergylta, thus questioning the role of V. tapetis as a primary pathogen of this fish species.

Concepts: Bacteria, Evolution, Species, Sea louse, Labridae, Wrasse, Salmon louse, Labrus