Journal Article

A review of the biology and genetics of sea lice

Karin Boxaspen

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 63, issue 7, pages 1304-1316
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
A review of the biology and genetics of sea lice

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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Studies of the biology of sea lice have been conducted from various perspectives for two decades. For Lepeophtheirus spp., most of the published literature has centred on the economically important Lepeophtheirus salmonis, while for Caligus spp., research has focused on a wider range of species. The most numerous species of Caligus in North Atlantic waters, however, is Caligus elongatus, which is also economically important to salmon farming. Since the last review by Pike, A. W., and Wadsworth, S. L. (1999. Sea lice on salmonids: their biology and control. Advances in Parasitology, 44: 234–337.), research on sea lice has developed considerably, including the application of genetic methods. This new research has focused on life history biology, studying developmental stages under different environmental conditions (e.g. temperature and salinity), behaviour, distribution and the dispersal of free-living stages, monitoring practices, population structure, and modelling. The results of this research have informed risk analyses and allowed the refinement of management strategies to reduce sea lice infestations in wild and farmed populations of anadromous salmonids. Molecular techniques have been used to describe population structure and identify differences in genetic characterization of geographically separate populations and population markers. Research has been initiated to understand the parasite–host relationship at a molecular level and to develop a vaccine against sea lice.

Keywords: developmental stages; distribution; life history biology; modelling; molecular biology; monitoring practices; populations; sea lice; susceptibility; vaccine

Journal Article.  9507 words. 

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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