Alpine bullhead (Cottus poecilopus Heckel): a potential refuge for Gyrodactylus salaris Malmberg, 1957 (Monogenea)
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The notifiable freshwater pathogen Gyrodactylus salaris Malmberg, 1957 tends to be a generalist in contrast to other monogeneans. Whilst it causes most damage to its primary host, the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar Linnaeus), transport and reservoir hosts likely play a key role in maintaining the parasite in the environment. Here, we tested the ability of G. salaris (strain River Lierelva, southern Norway) to infect and reproduce on a population of wild caught alpine bullhead (Cottus poecilopus Heckel). Exposure of alpine bullhead yearlings (0+) to G. salaris for 24 h at low (6.5 °C) or high temperature (11.5 °C) resulted in the establishment of 1 to 104 parasites per fish. Eight to nine days post-infection at high temperature, the infection of G. salaris was eliminated, indicative of innate host immunity. In contrast, at low temperature G. salaris infections persisted for 47–48 days. The relative lengthy infection of alpine bullhead with G. salaris compared to other non-salmonids tested may be due to low temperature and high initial infection load in combination with an epibiont infection. The present results suggest that this non-salmonid may function as a temperature-dependent transport or reservoir host for G. salaris.