HELMINTH PARASITES IN RINGED SEALS (PUSA HISPIDA) FROM SVALBARD, NORWAY WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON NEMATODES: VARIATION WITH AGE, SEX, DIET, AND LOCATION OF HOST


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Abstract

Complete gastrointestinal tracts from 257 ringed seals (Pusa hispida) from Svalbard, Norway, were examined for helminth parasites. Three different helminth groups were recorded (acanthocephalans 61.1%; nematodes 38%; cestodes 0.9%). Acanthocephalans (Polymorphidae) and cestodes (Anophryocephalus and Diphyllobothrium sp(p)., as well as unidentified species, were confined to the intestines. The anisakid nematodes Phocascaris phocae, Pseudoterranova sp(p)., Anisakis sp(p)., and Phocascaris/Contracaecum sp(p). were recorded in both stomachs and the anterior part of the small intestines. The abundance of nematodes and acanthocephalans varied significantly with sampling location of the seal hosts. This is likely due to the relative prevalence of Arctic versus Atlantic water in the different fjord systems, which strongly influences the age class and species of fish available as prey for the seals. Adult male ringed seals had significantly higher abundances of nematodes than did adult females or juveniles. Adult males also had significantly higher abundances of acanthocephalans than did adult females, but were not significantly different from juveniles in this regard. Nematode abundance increased significantly with age of male hosts, but this trend was lacking in female seals. Infection parameters appeared to be related to differences in the age of polar cod (Boreogadus saida) exploited by male, female, and juvenile seals.

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