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Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) Attachment to the Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Abstract: Limited information is available on cetacean interactions with the parasitic sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Direct observations of sea lamprey attachment are rare, and the resulting wounds and scars often provide the only evidence of a parasite–host relationship. In spite of extensive research of natural markings such as nicks and skin scarring patterns, previous studies do not describe sea lamprey attachment marks on the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Herein, we used opportunistically taken photographs to present direct evidence of sea lamprey attachment on a bottlenose dolphin. Furthermore, we analysed photo-identification data from long-term bottlenose dolphin studies in the Adriatic Sea and found eight skin marks attributable to sea lamprey attachment, providing indirect evidence linking the two species. Size estimation and geographic exclusion were used to corroborate the findings. The presence of scars corresponding to pierced wounds confirms that active feeding took place. Sea lamprey attachment marks on bottlenose dolphins are identifiable but appear to be rare, hard to notice, and short-lived. Therefore, such scars are not suitable for long-term photo-identification. Our findings confirm the bottlenose dolphin is a sea lamprey host and highlight the need to assess possible negative impacts of such interactions.
Key Words: parasite, cetacean, host, Adriatic Sea, photo-identification
Page Numbers: 152-166