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Phylum NEMERTEA – nemerteans, nemertines - page 4 / 6

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Common name: Fish lice

Agent / classification: Branchiura, Argulus

Host: variety of fishes

General: 150 spp., mainly parasitic on freshwater fishes, but over 30 marine forms

5-10 mm long, highly flattened, broad carapace, 1st maxillae modified as a large sucker, suckers unusual in crustaceans (usually hooks). Some have a stylet that can inject a toxin. Rapid movements over body surface. Feed by secreting digestive enzymes that break down tissues, can result in localized lesions.

Life cycle:

Direct, leaves host, deposit eggs on substrate. Copepodite-like stage hatches, molts and attacks fish.

Pathology:  Infected fish exhibit erratic swimming and darting behavior, irritation from stylet penetration.  Toxins can kill fish in heavy infections. (summer flounder).

Transmission: direct life cycle

Diagnosis /  Identification:

Treatment: 0.15-0.25 mg/l trichlorfon. Dylox also very effective.

Control: Quarantine where possible. Disinfect tanks with 2% chlorox bleach and allow to dry (kills egg masses).

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