A review of host finding behaviour in the parasitic sea louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Caligidae: Copepoda)

J Fish Dis. 2009 Jan;32(1):3-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2761.2008.01004.x.


Ectoparasitic sea lice are the most important parasite problem to date for the salmon farming industry in the northern and southern hemispheres. An understanding of host location in the specialist species, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, the most important louse species in the North Atlantic, is now being realized using behavioural in vitro and in vivo bioassays coupled with chemical analysis of fish conditioned waters. Both physical and chemical cues are important in host location. Responses of sea lice to physical cues such as light and salinity may enable them to gather in areas where host fish are likely to be found. Mechanoreception is an important sensory modality in host location and acts by switching on specific behaviours that enable landing on a fish. Chemoreception plays a defining role in host location and recognition. The detection of host kairomones switches on 'host search' behavioural patterns and also induces landing responses whereas non-host kairomones fail to induce attraction or significant landing behaviour. Semiochemicals derived from salmon and also non-host fish have been identified, and may prove useful for the development of integrated pest management strategies, by the introduction of odour traps for monitoring lice numbers, and by the use of stimulo-deterrent diversionary (push:pull) strategies in their control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Copepoda / physiology*
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / prevention & control
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / veterinary*
  • Fish Diseases / parasitology*
  • Fish Diseases / prevention & control
  • Fishes
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology
  • Pheromones / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism


  • Pheromones