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Subject: Parasitic worm on striped bass
From: Doug Cross <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 26 Jun 2000 21:13:36 +0000

TEXT/PLAIN (47 lines)

Bill Rodney asked "Does anyone have any idea what this thing could be?"


A word of caution - the anecdote makes a fundamental error - the assumption that
correlation equals causation. The statement that the worm was coiled through the
holes in the fish head should not be taken to imply that it was responsible for
the formation of the hole.

The statement that the worm was segmented indicates a member of the Annelida - but
this could include leeches as well. Then we have "I cut the loops of the worm . . .
which began bleeding a surprising amount." Very suggestive of a leech that had been
feeding on fish blood.

So what we have is a rockfish with holes in its head into which a leech seems to have
entered opportunely and taken a meal of blood from the victim. What might cause the
holes? Well there are several possibilities. Lampreys of maybe even a small hagfish
will rasp out holes in living fish. Or some bacterial diseases can cause pretty nasty
erosion of bone tissue. Fish can survive a surprising (horrific, even) amount of
trauma before they finally die. Any sort of damage like this could exist for some
time after the cause - maybe even be kept clean afterwards by small 'cleaner fish'.

There's no way to be certain about what the story is really reporting (unless you can
get hold of 'Walleye Pete' maybe!), but does this open up the prospects a little?



Doug Cross, Environmental Analyst and Forensic Ecologist

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