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Microsporidian parasitism of crayfish in Canadian shield headwater lakes within forested and clearcut watersheds

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The microsporidian Thelohania sp. has previously been found to increase its prevalence in crayfish populations inhabiting acidified and urbanized waters. Watershed clearcut logging is the most widespread land-use modification to which Canadian boreal lakes are exposed. The present study investigated whether a stress-response of increased Thelohania can be used as an early biomonitor of the health and viability of crayfish (Orconectes virilis) inhabiting such watersheds. Prevalences remained low (<1.5%) in 4 ‘coldwater fishery’ lakes over an 8-year period irrespective of experimental clearcutting. In contrast, microsporidosis was elevated in ‘warmwater fishery’ lakes in 6 clearcut watersheds (6.1%) compared to ‘warmwater fishery’ lakes in 5 forested watersheds (0.3%). These latter prevalence differences were unrelated to differences in lake temperature, host population abundance, and possible secondary-host minnow abundance between the two sets of ‘warmwater fishery’ lakes. Instead, the differences may be due to lower pHs in the clearcut (5.8 ± 0.4 SD) compared to forested (6.4 ± 0.2 SD) lakes. In addition to uncertainties about etiology and taxonomy, questions also remain about the zoogeography of this parasite in Canada.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, P.O. Box 550, Truro, NS, Canada B2N 5E3


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