Infection frequency and species identification of the black spot causing parasite found commonly on ocean surgeonfish (Acanthurus tractus) in Bonaire

Diseases, pathogens, and parasites in marine ecosystems are difficult to research and understand. Tracking the health of ecosystems, such as tropical coral reefs, is important for protecting these sensitive ecological areas. On the coral reefs surrounding Bonaire and other Caribbean islands, a dark spot ailment has been observed on ocean surgeonfish, Acanthurus tractus. This condition has been found to be a parasite, although its exact taxonomic identity is still unknown. The study of this parasite has become the point of interest for many researchers because dark spots have now been observed on other herbivorous fish in this region. The current frequency of the parasite on ocean surgeonfish and other species of surgeonfish is not known. These herbivorous fish are crucial to a healthy and sustainable coral reef ecosystem; a large change to the health of the population of these fishes could potentially affect the entire system. The purpose of this research was to find the prevalence of this parasite in species of surgeonfish through repetitive transects of counting infected individuals on the reefs of Bonaire. Additionally, collection and excision of parasites from their hosts allowed for a hypothesized genus of the infecting organism. The proportion of the density of ocean surgeonfish infected with this black spot causing parasite was 63% and it was found that the proportion of density for the degree of infection for ocean surgeonfish differed significantly among the population. Furthermore, through individual samplings of ocean surgeonfish, the lowest possible taxonomic description of this parasite was found to be the genus Paravortex.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVII (Spring 2015)19: 1-9 from CIEE Bonaire.

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