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Coral reef fish harbor an unexpectedly high biodiversity of parasites
Date:9/5/2007

IRD researchers (1) showed that Epinephilus maculates, a fairly abundant species of grouper off New Caledonia, was parasitized by 12 species of microscopic monogenean worms. This diversity of parasites has just been confirmed also in the malabar grouper, Epinephilus malabaricus, another the coral reef species. If such a level of parasite diversity prevails in all coral-reef fish, tens of thousands of parasite species are in this ecosystem waiting to be discovered.

In the same way as the tropical rainforest, the coral reefs of warm seas are among the richest ecosystems of the world in terms of their biodiversity. In fact the best conserved areas harbour over 700 species of coral, 600 species of mollusc and nearly 4000 species of fish. These fish have been well studied by reef biodiversity specialists over the past few years, yet still little is known about their parasites. Two studies conducted by IRD researchers of Noumea have brought out evidence of this parasite species richness in two grouper species of the New Caledonian coral reef.

The new species described by the IRD taxonomists are microscopic animals less than 0.5 mm long. These tiny parasitic worms all belong to the class of monogeneans (Monogenea). They live on gills of marine fish where they find both refuge and food. Identification of each taxon is facilitated by the morphology of the genital apparatus which is characteristic for each species. In 2006, researchers from the research unit Systmatique, Adaptation, volution (UMR 148) at Noumea first studied Epinephelus maculatus, a grouper species commonly called loche grisette and quite common in the New Caledonia lagoon. Microscopic observation of nearly 800 specimens of monogeneans collected from gills of 10 individuals of this fish allowed biologists to identify 12 different species. By comparison, the Mediterranean grouper (Epinephelus marginatus) are host to just four species belonging to this class of gill parasite. At least 10 of th
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Contact: Gregory Flechet
fichesactu@paris.ird.fr
33-014-803-7607
Institut de Recherche Pour le Dveloppement
Source:Eurekalert

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