A larval marine cestode was found in 82.0% of 834 Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) stomachs collected from 341 trawl stations along the United States west coast during the summers of 2008 and 2009. Morphology and DNA sequencing was used to identify the cestode as Nybelinia surmenicola. In an examination of 131 Pacific hake stomachs collected from the same region in 1999, N. surmenicola prevalence was 35.1%. The results from a general linear model suggested that their prevalence is influenced by year and latitude, Pacific hake size, and sex. Mean intensity of N. surmenicola in 2008–2009 was 20.22 (±1.13 SE) and was positively related to Pacific hake length and the latitude of collection. Year-1 Pacific hake (<27 cm length) had significantly lower prevalence and intensity of N. surmenicola compared to older and larger fish. Pacific hake collected south of Point Conception, California (32.5 to 35°N) had lower prevalence and intensity of N. surmenicola compared to those collected in northern latitudes (35.1 to 48.4°N). Higher N. surmenicola prevalence in Pacific hake in recent years suggests food-web fluctuations in the northern California current ecosystem caused by changes in ocean transport of zooplankton or pelagic fish distributions and warrants future monitoring as a metric for ecosystem change.
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