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Characterization of a Gyrodactylus salaris variant: infection biology, morphology and molecular genetics

  • T. LINDENSTRØM (a1), C. M. COLLINS (a2), J. BRESCIANI (a3), C. O. CUNNINGHAM (a2) and K. BUCHMANN (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2003

A laboratory population of a Danish Gyrodactylus salaris variant founded by 1 single specimen was established and infection studies performed. Rainbow trout as well as Atlantic salmon of 3 different stocks were infected both in cohabitation systems and as single-parasite infections on isolated hosts. Both infection systems revealed that this particular morphotype exhibits low virulence towards Atlantic salmon. Thus, in isolated hosts, the parasites could either not establish or only reproduce to a limited degree on salmon. Rainbow trout, in contrast, proved to be rather susceptible to infection with this G. salaris variant and abundances on this host species always attained significantly higher values in cohabitation systems compared to salmon. Detailed morphological examination confirmed the very high resemblance to G. salaris (sensu stricto), as the range of variation in sclerite characters of the morphotype is almost fully covered by the total range of variation reported for reference G. salaris. Morphological similarities to the closely related congeneric species G. bohemicus were noted. Molecular studies, however, showed that the morphotype most likely represents a G. salaris variant, as it differed only slightly from G. salaris sensu Malmberg, 1957, which is also known to inhabit Danish watercourses. The genomic target region investigated does not allow us to rule out the possibility that it represents a variant form of G. thymalli. Sequences of the ribosomal RNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) revealed that single individuals contained 2 different ITS sequences, one identical to reference sequence of G. salaris while the other differed at 3 positions. This can be interpreted as an example of a hybrid or, more likely, as intra-individual variation of ITS within single individuals. As one of the nucleotide changes in the variant ITS affects an Hae III restriction site, the current G. salaris variant can be distinguished from G. salaris sensu Malmberg by RFLP diagnosis.

Corresponding author
Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Laboratory of Fish Diseases, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (RVAU), Stigbøjlen 4, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C., Denmark. Tel: +45 35282703. Fax: +45 35382711. E-mail:
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