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A surging interest in the evolution of consistent trait correlations has inspired research on pigment patterns as a correlate of behavioural syndromes, or -animal personalities-. Associations between pigmentation, physiology and health status are less investigated as potentially conserved trait clusters. In the current study, lice counts performed on farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar naturally infected with ectoparasitic sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis showed that individual fish with high incidence of black melanin-based skin spots harboured fewer female sea lice carrying egg sacs, compared to less pigmented fish. There was no significant association between pigmentation and lice at other developmental stages, suggesting that host factors associated with melanin-based pigmentation may modify ectoparasite development to a larger degree than settlement. In a subsequent laboratory experiment a strong negative correlation between skin spots and post-stress cortisol levels was revealed, with less pigmented individuals showing a more pronounced cortisol response to acute stress. The observation that lice prevalence was strongly increased on a fraction of sexually mature male salmon which occurred among the farmed fish further supports a role for steroid hormones as mediators of reduced parasite resistance. The data presented here propose steroid hormones as a proximate cause for the association between melanin-based pigmentation and parasites. Possible fundamental and applied implications are discussed.



Autor: Silje Kittilsen, Ida Beitnes Johansen, Bjarne Olai Braastad, Øyvind Øverli

Fuente: http://plos.srce.hr/



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