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Diurnal activity patterns of the temporary fish ectoparasite, Gnathia africana Barnard, 1914 (Isopoda, Gnathiidae), from the southern coast of South Africa

  • Rachel L. Welicky (a1), Maryke L. Ferreira (a2), Paul Sikkel (a1) (a3) and Nico J. Smit (a1)

Gnathiid isopods are one of the most common fish ectoparasites, and are found in both temperate and tropical oceans. On coral reefs, gnathiids are most active at dusk and dawn, and contribute significantly to trophic dynamics, as they are a prey resource for cleaner fish and parasitize numerous fishes. Gnathiids also inhabit temperate intertidal waters, but their activity patterns and contribution to intertidal trophic dynamics remain unstudied. To provide the first ecological data on temperate intertidal gnathiid activity patterns, 172 gnathiid-free Clinus superciliosus were set in an intertidal system in Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa, during early morning, morning, afternoon, early evening, and evening, high and low tide, and within the inter- and infra-tidal zone to examine gnathiid infestation levels. After exposure, gnathiids from each fish were identified to the species level, counted, and their developmental stage was recorded. All gnathiids were identified as Gnathiia africana. On average, 1 ± 5SD gnathiids were collected from each fish, and the majority of gnathiids collected were stage 1. Significantly more gnathiids were collected during morning and afternoon compared with all other time periods. The number of gnathiids collected was not influenced by the fish's exposure to high or low tide, or placement within the tide zone. Although G. africana is free from cleaner fish predation because cleaner fish do not reside in temperate intertidal habitat, G. africana abundance is surprisingly small. Future studies should examine what regulates G. africana population size and the role they play in temperate intertidal food webs.

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      Diurnal activity patterns of the temporary fish ectoparasite, Gnathia africana Barnard, 1914 (Isopoda, Gnathiidae), from the southern coast of South Africa
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      Diurnal activity patterns of the temporary fish ectoparasite, Gnathia africana Barnard, 1914 (Isopoda, Gnathiidae), from the southern coast of South Africa
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      Diurnal activity patterns of the temporary fish ectoparasite, Gnathia africana Barnard, 1914 (Isopoda, Gnathiidae), from the southern coast of South Africa
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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: R. L. Welicky Water Research Group, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa email:
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