In late 1987, immature Anguillicola crassus were reported for the first time in Britain from eels from two river systems. By late 1988, gravid adults were present in a number of rivers in the east of England in two discrete centres of distribution: one in East Anglia correlated with the route taken by lorries exporting eels to the continent, and one in the R. Thames correlated with the import of eels to London. The parasite was firmly established in the R. Trent, where prevalence levels reached 100% in some places. Laboratory investigations showed that adult parasites and their eggs remained viable even after infected eels had been maintained for 4 weeks in 100% sea water. Hatching of eggs declined with increasing salinity, but was not totally inhibited by sea water. Survival and infectivity of freeliving second stage larvae were maximal in natural fresh water (95% survival for 4 months, and 50% still infective to copepod intermediate hosts after 70 days), but declined in alkaline water and with increased salinity. Nevertheless, in 100% sea water, 50% of larvae were still infective after 8 days. Specificity to the intermediate host was low, and eels of all sizes could be infected. These characteristics, plus a high reproductive potential, give the parasite exceptional colonization potential and ability, enabling it to survive natural movements of eels from catchment to catchment and to increase rapidly within a new locality. The ability of free‐living larvae to adhere to the substratum and survive in sea water enables them to survive in eel‐transport lorries from which they will not readily be removed by flushing, the normal cleansing procedure. It is concluded that there were two separate introductions of the parasite to Britain; via the eel import trade through London, and, totally unexpectedly, via the eel export trade in lorries traversing East Anglia. The parasite is now firmly established in Britain and will continue to spread by natural movements of eels but especially by human‐assisted movements of infected eels for stocking and market. This latter practice is recognized as a major factor in introducing and disseminating fish parasites.
Journal of Fish Biology – Wiley
Published: Feb 1, 1990
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