Fish blood flukes of the genus Cardicola (Digenea: Aporocotylidae) are important pathogens in tuna aquaculture. Recent advances in marine blood fluke research have led to the elucidation of the lifecycles of 3 Cardicola spp. infecting tuna; all 3 flukes utilize terebellid polychaetes as the intermediate host. In our survey, we obtained large numbers of Nicolea gracilibranchis infected by larval Cardicola orientalis at our tuna farming site. To determine the spatial and temporal changes in the distribution of N. gracilibranchis surrounding tuna culture cages and their infection by C. orientalis, we conducted monthly sampling for a period of 1 yr. Terebellids were most abundant on the floats and ropes of culture cages, but a significantly higher proportion of infected N. gracilibranchis was detected on ropes, particularly up to 4 m in depth. Cardicola orientalis infection in N. gracilibranchis was clearly seasonal, with a higher infection rate between April and July. Our findings indicate that the infected terebellids inhabit specific microhabitats, and both abiotic and biotic factors likely influence blood fluke infection in the intermediate terebellid host. This information is important to better understand the general biology of marine aporocotylids and may be useful to develop a control strategy for blood fluke infection in tuna aquaculture.
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Vol. 103 • No. 5