Grey seals (Halichoerus gryphus), the main final host of the gastric parasitic nematode Contracaecum osculatum in the Baltic, have recently recolonized the southwestern Baltic Sea. This colonization could lead to an increase in prevalence and intensity of third-stage larvae of C. osculatum in livers of Baltic cod (Gadus morhua), which serve as transport host for this helminth. We performed a parasitologic study of cod in spring 2012 and compared the results with previously unpublished data from 1982/1983. Additionally, grey seals were counted annually from 2000 to 2011 at three haul-out sites in the southwestern Baltic. Of 97 cod livers examined in the 1982/1983 survey, 22% harbored C. osculatum larvae, whereas 55.1% of the examined cod livers (n = 185) were infected in 2012; the mean intensity and mean abundance increased from 4.3 and 0.9 to 20.2 and 11.1, respectively. Molecular identification (PCR) confirmed the identity of the larvae. The grey seal population increased markedly during the 12-yr period. We suggest that the elevated parasitism of cod livers is associated with the successful re-establishment of grey seals in the southwestern Baltic.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3