A pedigree-based experiment reveals variation in salinity and thermal tolerance in the salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis
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The salmon louse is a highly abundant ectoparasitic copepod of salmonids in the North Pacific and Atlantic. Widespread and rapid development of resistance to chemical agents used to delouse salmonids on marine farms is now threatening the continued development of the aquaculture industry and have served as a potent catalyst for the development of alternative pest management strategies. These include freshwater and warm-water treatments to which the louse is sensitive. However, given the well-documented evolutionary capacity of this species, the risk of developing tolerance towards these environmental treatments cannot be dismissed. Two common-garden experiments were performed using full-sibling families of lice identified by DNA parentage testing to investigate whether one of the fundamental premises for evolution, in this context genetic variation in the capacity of coping with fresh or warm water, exists within this species. Significant differences in survival were observed among families in both experiments, although for the salinity experiment, it was not possible to unequivocally disentangle background mortality from treatment-induced mortality. Thus, our data demonstrate genetic variation in tolerance of warm water and are suggestive of genetic variation in salinity tolerance. We conclude that extensive use of these environmental-based treatments to delouse salmonids on commercial farms may drive lice towards increased tolerance.
CitationLjungfeldt ELR, Sanchez MQ, Besnier F, Nilsen F, Glover KA. A pedigree-based experiment reveals variation in salinity and thermal tolerance in the salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis. Evolutionary Applications. 2017;10(10):1007-1019
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