Species composition and infection dynamics of ascaridoid nematodes in Barents Sea capelin (Mallotus villosus) reflecting trophic position of fish host

Parasitol Res. 2016 Nov;115(11):4281-4291. doi: 10.1007/s00436-016-5209-9. Epub 2016 Jul 29.


Capelin (Mallotus villosus) is among the most abundant fish species in the Barents Sea, and represents a critical food source for many predators in the area including Atlantic cod and harp seal. In Norway, the fish is of economic importance since whole capelin and roe are valuable export products. Despite its economic and ecological importance, the parasites of Barents Sea capelin are poorly known. However, the presence of parasites in the edible parts may adversely affect product quality and consumer safety. During the main annual catching seasons of 2009-2012, we investigated the diversity and infection dynamics of ascaridoid nematodes in capelin (n = 620) from the southern Barents Sea. Three anisakid species were identified by genetic or molecular methods; Anisakis simplex (s.s.), Contracaecum osculatum sp. B, and Hysterothylacium aduncum, with C. osculatum sp. B as the most prevalent and abundant species. The present findings suggest that the ascaridoid species composition in capelin reflects its trophic position in the Barents Sea ecosystem. There appears to be a link between infection level of the nematode species and the preferred prey organisms of the different developmental phases of capelin. Thus, the higher abundance of C. osculatum sp. B compared to A. simplex (s.s.) and H. aduncum may be related to more extensive feeding on calanoid copepods over a wider ontogenetic size range including adolescence, while the main intermediate hosts of the latter nematode species, i.e. euphausiids and amphipods, appear to be the preferred prey of larger capelin.

Keywords: Barents Sea; Capelin; Life cycle; Mallotus villosus; Nematode parasites; Trophic position.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisakis / classification*
  • Anisakis / genetics
  • Anisakis / isolation & purification
  • Ascaridoidea / classification*
  • Ascaridoidea / genetics
  • Ascaridoidea / isolation & purification
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Fish Diseases / parasitology*
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Osmeriformes / parasitology*