Citation Olafsdottir D & Shinn A (2013) Epibiotic macrofauna on common minke whales, Balaenoptera acutorostrata Lacépède, 1804, in Icelandic waters. Parasites and Vectors, 6 (1), Art. No.: 105. https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-6-105
Abstract Background: Whilst there is a body of scientific literature relating to the epibiotic macrofauna on large whales, there is little information on the cetaceans in Icelandic waters. Common minke whales, Balaenoptera acutorostrata Lacépède, 1804, are a common sighting between the months of April to November, however, the migration and distribution of the population in winter requires establishing. The present study provides baseline information on the species composition, geographic distribution and abundance of the epibiotic macrofauna on minke whales landed in Icelandic waters and comments on their acquisition. Methods: The epibiotic macrofauna and skin lesions on 185 and 188 common minke whales respectively, landed in Icelandic waters between April to September 2003-2007 were determined. For each whale, the fluke and one lateral side was examined. Results: A total of seven epibiotic species were found: the caligid copepod Caligus elongatus (prevalence (P) = 11.9%, mean intensity (M.I) = 95.5); the pennellid copepod Pennella balaenopterae (P = 10.3%, M.I = 1.6); the cyamid amphipod Cyamus balaenopterae (P = 6.5%, M.I = 37.0); the lepadid cirripedes Conchoderma virgatum (P = 0.5%, M.I = 4.0) and Conchoderma auritum (P = 0.5%, M.I = 1.0), the balanid cirriped Xenobalanus globicipitis (P = 1.6%, M.I = 5.3) and the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus (P = 2.7%, M.I = 1.0). In addition, the hyperparasitic monogenean Udonella caligorum was found on C. elongatus (P = 6.6%) on 8 of the 22 whales infected with the copepod. No significant relationship was observed between parasite intensity and host body length for either C. balaenopterae or C. elongatus, while the proportion of infected hosts was higher in August-September than earlier in the summer for C. balaenopterae (χ2 = 13.69; p<0.01: d.f.=1) and C. elongatus (χ2 = 28.88; p<0.01: d.f.=1). Conclusions: The higher prevalence of C. balaenopterae on male whales (χ2 = 5.08; p<0.05: d.f.=1), suggests possible different migration routes by the sexes. A likely explanation of the occurrence of P. marinus attached to the minke whales may be due to the gradually rising sea temperature in the area in recent years. This study represents the first known record of C. elongatus on a cetacean host.