Ceratomyxa shasta (Myxozoa) is a common gastrointestinal pathogen of salmonid fishes in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. We have been investigating this parasite in adult Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Willamette River, Oregon. In prior work, we observed differences in the pattern of development of C. shasta in adult salmon compared to juvenile salmon. Adult salmon consistently had large numbers of prespore stages in many of the fish that survived to spawn in the fall. However, myxospores were rarely observed, even though they were exposed and presumably infected for months before spawning. We evaluated the ability of C. shasta to sporulate following fish death because it is reported that myxosores are common in carcasses of Chinook salmon. We collected the intestine from 30 adult salmon immediately after artificial spawning and death (T0). A total of 23 fish were infected with C. shasta based on histology, but only a few myxospores were observed in 1 fish by histology. Intestines of these fish were examined at T0 and T7 (latter held at 17 C for 7 days) using quantified wet mount preparations. An increase in myxospore concentrations was seen in 39% of these fish, ranging between a 1.5- to a 14.5-fold increase. The most heavily infected fish exhibited a 4.6-fold increase from 27,841 to 129,352 myxospores/cm. This indicates, supported by various statistical analyses, that under certain conditions presporogonic forms are viable and continue to sporulate after death in adult salmon. Considering the life cycle of C. shasta and anadromous salmon, the parasite may have evolved 2, non-mutually exclusive developmental strategies. In young fish (parr and smolts), the parasite sporulates shortly after infection and is released into freshwater from either live or dead fish before their migration to seawater, where the alternate host is absent. The second strategy occurs in adult salmon, particularly spring Chinook salmon, which become infected upon their return to freshwater in the spring or early summer. For several months throughout the summer, only prespore stages are observed in most fish, even at the time of spawning. But once the fish dies, environmental conditions experienced by C. shasta change and viable presporogonic stages are induced to sporulate. As the post-spawned fish occur in the upper reaches of rivers, the myxospores would be released in a freshwater environment that would provide a reasonable opportunity for them to encounter their freshwater polychaete hosts, which reside downstream.
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Vol. 100 • No. 5