Infections with sea lice species belonging to Lepeophtheirus and Caligus are reported from examinations of 1,309 three-spine sticklebacks collected in coastal British Columbia. Over 97% of the 19,960 Lepeophtheirus specimens and nearly 96% of the 2,340 Caligus specimens were in the copepodid and chalimus developmental stages. The parasites were identified as Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus clemensi based on morphology of adult stages. Between 1,763 and 1,766 base pairs (bp) of 18S rDNA from adult specimens collected from sticklebacks and salmon differed from the GenBank L. salmonis reference sequence by a single bp and were distinct from those of 2 other Lepeophtheirus species. A 530-bp region of 18S rDNA from chalimus stages of Lepeophtheirus obtained from sticklebacks and salmon was identical to that of the L. salmonis reference sequence. The three-spine stickleback is a new host record for L. salmonis. The prevalence of L. salmonis was 83.6% and that of C. clemensi was 42.8%. The intensities of these infections were 18.3 and 4.2, respectively. There was no significant relationship between sea lice abundance and stickleback condition factor. Significant spatial and temporal variations both in abundance of sea lice and surface seawater salinities were measured. The abundance of both sea lice species was lowest in zones in which surface seawater salinity was also lowest. Sticklebacks appear to serve as temporary hosts, suggesting a role of this host in the epizootiology of L. salmonis. The stickleback may be a useful sentinel species with which to monitor spatial and temporal changes in the abundance of L. salmonis and C. clemensi.
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