Parasitic Copepods: Enemies of Soft Corals, False Corals, Gorgonians, Anemones, Zoanthids, and Tridacna Clams

Our examination of parasitic copepods will conclude this month with an examination of those ‘bugs’ known to infest soft corals, gorgonians and Tridacna clams. Oddly, no reports are known to me of hobbyists observing any of these parasites, and no information has been presented in hobby literature that I am aware of.

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Figure 1. Paclabius tumidus, a parasite of Tridacna squamosa. The female of this species can reach 6mm (1/4″) in length!

This brings up a couple of questions: Are these copepods restricted to geographical areas where collection of livestock for aquaria is not practiced? Or are we hobbyists, as a group, in need of honing our powers of observation? The goal of this article is to present copepods known to infest marine invertebrates (other than stony corals) popularly found in our captive reefs. Perhaps lack of documentation of these parasites within aquaria is simply due to their small size (usually, but not always, less than 1 millimeter in length). In addition, these copepods sometimes assume the color of their host, possibly indicating ingestion of host tissues.

A listing of parasites found on (or in) soft corals, anemones, zoanthids, gorgonians, and Tridacna clams is found at the conclusion of this article in Table 1.

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I have made every attempt to update the taxonomic status of copepods listed in this article, and, in many cases, the status of the host as well. Often, the original Latin name of the animal is listed in parentheses. Sizes of the copepods are the maxima reported.

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Figure 2. Tridacna and other clams are sometimes infested with parasitic copepods. Photo by the author.

 

Parasites of Tridacna and Hippopus Clams

It should come as little surprise that Tridacna clams can be victims of parasitic copepods. It would seem that any animal not enduring parasitic infestations would be the exception.

Examples of Tridacna parasites include protozoa (Fatheree, 2006) and Pyramidellid snails (Tathrella iredalei; Heslinga et al., 1990). However, little popular literature offers information concerning copepod parasites of clams popularly kept in aquaria including species of genera Tridacna and Hippopus.

We’ll begin our examination with copepods found in genus Anthessius.

Anthessius alatus

  • Hosts: Tridacna gigas, T. maxima, T. noae (taxon no longer recognized), and T. squamosa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Anthessiidae
  • Locality: Red Sea (T. noaea); Madagascar (T. squamosa); Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands (T. squamosa, T. maxima, T. gigas), and New Caledonia (T. squamosa and T. maxima)
  • Reference: Humes, 1973

Anthessius amicalis

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  • Hosts: Tridacna enlongata (= T. maxima), T. maxima, T. squamosa and Hippopus hippopus
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Anthessiidae
  • Locality: Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands; New Caledonia; Red Sea
  • Reference: Humes, 1973

Anthessius solidus

  • Host: Tridacna squamosa
  • Color: Opaque, with red eye
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Anthessiidae
  • Locality: Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands
  • Reference: Humes, 1973

Lichomolgus hippopi

  • Host: Hippopus hippopus
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Lichomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes, 1976

Lichomolgus tridacnae

  • Hosts: Tridacna gigas and Tridacna squamosa
  • Color: Opaque, with red eye
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Lichomolgidae
  • Locality: Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands
  • Reference: Humes, 1972

Paclabius tumidus

  • Hosts: Tridacna squamosa; Tridacna sp.
    image001.jpg

    Figure 3. Paclabius tumidus, a parasite of Tridacna clams.

  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 6mm (Kossmann, 1877)
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 2.11mm
  • Color: Opaque, with red eye
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Lichomolgidae
  • Locality: Philippines (Kossmann); New Caledonia, (Humes)
  • Reference: Humes, 1973; Humes and Stock, 1973, Kossmann, 1877

 

Tridachnophilus or Tridacnophilus

Nair (1988) moved Anthessius spp. associated with Tridacna clams to a new genus – Tridachnophilus. However, this synonym is no longer accepted, and Anthessius is correct.

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Figure 4. Gorgonians (including sea fans, sea whips, etc.) can be hosts to parasitic copepods. Photo courtesy of Michael P. Janes (www.aquatouch.com).

 

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Parasites of Gorgonians

I’ve taken the liberty of including hexacorals Antipathes in this grouping, though it is technically incorrect. Gorgonians include sea fans, sea whips, and others. In any case, gorgonians are potential victims of copepod parasites.

Acanthomolgus aequiseta

  • Host: Muricea laxa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Stock, 1975

Acanthomolgus affinis

  • Host: Plexaura homomalla
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Stock, 1975

Acanthomolgus arctatipes

  • Host: Echinogorgia sassapo
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes, 1974
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    Figure 5. Acanthomolgus astrictus

Acanthomolgus astrictus

  • Host: Acanthogorgia aspera
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.99mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.78mm
  • Color: Mimics (attributable to?) the coloration of the host: Slightly reddish, egg sacs reddish-brown or gray, red eye
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Acanthomolgus bayeri

  • Host: Pseudoplexaura porosa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Bermuda
  • Reference: Humes, 1971

Acanthomolgus bilobipes

  • Hosts: Antillogorgia acerosa and Antillogorgia elastica
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.98mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.79mm
  • Color: Translucent to very light tan, the eye is red.
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Curacao, West Indies
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Acanthomolgus combinatus

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  • Host: Echinogorgia sassapo
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes, 1974

Acanthomolgus dionyx

  • Host: Pseudopterogorgia americana
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Stock, 1975

Acanthomolgus eminulus

  • Host: Muricea california
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Ewbel, 1977

Acanthomolgus gentilis

  • Host: Umbellulifera striata
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974
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    Figure 6. Acanthomolgus hales

  • Comment: Also a parasite of soft corals such as Dendronephthya

Acanthomolgus hales

  • Host: Solenocaulon tortuosum
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.84mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.67mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974
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    Figure 7. A beautiful Siphonogorgia. Photo courtesy of Michael P. Janes and www.aquatouch.com.

Acanthomolgus hians

  • Host: Siphonogorgia pichoni
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974

Acanthomolgus longispinifer

  • Host: Siphonogorgia pichoni
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974

Acanthomolgus plantei

  • Host: Umbellulifera striata
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.99mm
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    Figure 8. Acanthomolgus plantei

  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.86mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974

Doridicola botulosus (formerly Metaxymolgus botulosus)

  • Hosts: Eunicella stricta and Paramicea chameleon
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus clavatus

  • Host:Coelogorgia palmosa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus constrictus

  • Host: Antipathes ericoides (wire coral)
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus insectus

  • Hosts: Antipathes abies, Antipathes myriophylla, and Antipathes sp. (spinescens?) – ‘wire corals’
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
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    Figure 9. Telestacicola angoti, dorsal view, female with eggs.

Telestacicola angoti

  • Hosts: Coelogorgia palmosa and Muricella rubra robusta
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.95mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.74mm
  • Color: Translucent in transmitted light, with the alimentary canal being orange red within the prosome but bluish in the urosome, the eye is red and the egg sacs are pale lavender to brown.
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
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    Figure 10. The soft coral Sinularia. Courtesy Steve Ruddy and www.coralreefecosystems.com

 

Parasites of Soft Corals

Soft corals are perhaps the most popular coral invertebrates maintained within captive reefs. Many (if not all) of the popular soft corals are subject to infestations by parasitic copepods.

Acanthomolgus abonensis

  • Host: Nephthea galbuloides
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Kim, 2007

Acanthomolgus boholensis

  • Host: Dendronephthya puetteri
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
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    Figure 11. Dendronephthya specimens, with a Sarcophyton to the left. Photo courtesy Michael P. Janes and www.aquatouch.com.

  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes, 1973

Acanthomolgus cuneipes

  • Hosts: Dendronephthya mucronata and Stereonephthya acaulis
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Acanthomolgus exilipes

  • Hosts: Dendronephthya koellikeri, Dendronephthya mucronata, Dendronephthya regia, Dendronephthya speciosa, Dendronephthya stocki, and Stereonephthya cordylophora
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Acanthomolgus fissisetiger

  • Hosts: Lemnalia humesi, Stereonephthya acaulis, and Stereonephthya papyracea
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Acanthomolgus gentilis

  • Hosts: Dendronephthya koellikeri, Dendronephthya lokobeensis, Dendronephthya mucronata, Stereonephthya acaulis, and Stereonephthya cordylophora
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974

Acanthomolgus varirostratus

  • Hosts: Dendronephthya cirsium, Dendronephthya koellikeri, Dendronephthya lokobeensis, Dendronephthya lokobeensis, Dendronephthya regia, Dendronephthya speciosa, Dendronephthya stocki, and Stereonephthya cordylophora
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974

Acanthomolgus verseveldti

  • Hosts: Heteroxenia elisabethae, Heteroxenia fuscescens, and Xenia lepida
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1974
    image021.jpg

    Figure 12. Ansiomolgus protentus, a parasitic copepod of soft corals Lobophytum and Sarcophyton.

  • Comment: Also known as Lichomolgus verseveldti

Ansiomolgus inciscus

  • Host: Sarcophyton ehrenbergi
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Ansiomolgus insolens

  • Host: Lobophytum crassum
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
    image023.jpg

    Figure 13. Sarcophyton elegans, like many other soft corals, may be subject to infestations of parasitic copepods. Photo courtesy of Steve Ruddy and www.coralreefecosystems.com.

  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Ansiomolgus protentus

  • Hosts: Lobophytum crebriplicatum, Sarcophyton glaucum, Sarcophyton globosum
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973; Humes, 1975

Ascetomolgus plicatus

  • Host: Studeriotes semperi
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.90mm
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    Figure 14. Ascetomolgus plicatus, a parasite of the non-photosynthetic soft coral Studeroites.

  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.74mm
  • Color: Opaque, red is eye, egg sacs are gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Colobomolgus cristatus

  • Host: Sinularia leptoclados
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Colobomolgus dentipes

  • Host: Sinularia humesi
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image027.jpg

    Figure 15. Colobomolgus laboutei

Colobomolgus laboutei

  • Host: Sinularia leptoclados
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 0.96mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.63mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red.
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image029.jpg

    Figure 16. Contomolgus lokobeensis, a parasite of non-photosynthetic soft corals.

Contomolgus lokobeensis

  • Hosts: Studeriotes semperi and Dendronephthya stocki
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.49mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.22mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red, egg sacs are gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola aculeatus (formerly Metaxymolgus aculeatus)

  • Hosts: Lemnalia madagascarensis, Lemnalia sp., Litophyton arboretum, Nephthea aberrans , Nephthea amentacea, Nephthea bumasta, Nephthea crassa, Nephthea filamentosa, Nephthea galbuloides, Nephthea lanternaria, Nephthea sphaerophora, Nephthea tixierae, Stereonephthya nosybearia and Stereonephthya scaphis
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image031.jpg

    Figure 17. Doridicola antheliae. As its name implies, this copepod is found on Anthelia species.

Doridicola antheliae (formerly Metaxymolgus antheliae)

  • Hosts: Anthelia glauca and Anthelia ternatana
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.14mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.85mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola bulbipes

  • Hosts: Alcyonium acaule and Parerythropodium coralloides
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: France, Spain
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola cincinnatus (formerly Metaxymolgus cincinnatus)

  • Host: Cladiella pachyclados
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.63mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.43mm
  • Color: Opaque, eye red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola cinctus

  • Host: Psammogorgia ramosa
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola comparatus (formerly Metaxymolgus comparatus)

  • Host: Xenia membranacea
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 2.24mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.82mm
  • Color: Opaque, eye red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola foxi

  • Hosts: Cladiella krempfi, Cladiella lacinosa, Cladiella latissima, Cladiella pachyclados, and Cladiella sphaerophora
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola hetaericus

  • Hosts: Cladiella krempfi, Cladiella laciniosa, andCladiella polyclados
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola mimicus (formerly Metaxymolgus mimicus)

  • Host: Cladiella pachyclados
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.73mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.22mm
  • Color: Opaque, eye red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola patulus

  • Host: Sinularia mayi
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola praelongipes (formerly Metaxymolgus praelongipes)

  • Host: Xenia membranacea
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 2.30mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: Unknown
  • Color: Opaque, eye red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Doridicola singularipes

  • Hosts:Parerythropodium rubiginosum and
  • Parerythropodium sp.
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Frost, 1964

Doridicola spinulifer (formerly Metaxymolgus spinulifer)

  • Hosts: Lemnalia africana, Lemnalia amabilis, Lemnalia cervicornis, Lemnalia crassicaulis, Lemnalia digitata, Lemnalia elegens, Lemnalia flava, Lemnalia longiramus, Lemnalia madagascarensis, Lemnalia tenuis, Paralemnalia clavata, Paralemnalia polydactyla, andParalemnalia thyrsoides
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Frost, 1964
    image033.jpg

    Figure 18. Meringomolgus fascetus, from the soft coral Sinularia.

Meringomolgus fascetus

  • Hosts: Sinularia minima and Sinularia polydactyla
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.44mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.20mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red and egg sacs are gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image035.jpg

    Figure 19. The parasitic copepod Meringomolgus devotus.

Meringomolgus devotus

  • Host: Sinularia leptoclados
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.46mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.92mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light, eye is red and egg sacs are gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Meringomolgus hamatus

  • Hosts: Sinularia leptoclados, Sinularia humesi, and Sinularia maximus
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image037.jpg

    Figure 20. Monomolgus unihastatus, female with eggs, dorsal view.

Monomolgus unihastatus

  • Host: Anthelia sp.
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Color: Red eye
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
  • Comment: Also found on Porites stony corals
    image039.jpg

    Figure 21. Notoxynus mundus, female, dorsal view.

Notoxynus mundus

  • Host: Xenia membranacea
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 2.18mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.70mm
  • Color: Slightly brownish, eye red, egg sacs gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: New Caledonia
  • Reference: Humes, 1975

Paradoridicola adelphus

  • Host: Sinularia pendunculata, Sinularia polydactyla, and Sinularia whiteleggei
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paradoridicola glabripes

  • Host: Xenia macrospiculata
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paradoridicola squamiger

  • Host: Sinularia polydactyla and Sinularia whiteleggi
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image041.jpg

    Figure 22. Paradoridicola sinulariae, not surprisingly from Sinularia soft corals.

Paradoridicola sinulariae

  • Host: Sinularia arborea
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.46mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 1.05mm
  • Color: Opaque in transmitted light with a few red globules, the eye is red and egg sacs are opaque gray
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paradoridicola triquetrus

  • Host: Anthelia gracilis
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus anomalus

  • Host: ‘Alcyonacean tissue’
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Southern coast of Arabia
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus clavatus

  • Hosts: Lemnalia longiramus, Lemnalia cervicornis, andLemnalia crassicaulis
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus spathophorus

  • Hosts: Sarcophyton glaucum, Sarcophyton trocheliophorum, and Sarcophyton acutangulum
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
    image043.jpg

    Figure 23. Paredromolgus decorus is a parasite of Cladiella species.

  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paredromolgus decorus

  • Hosts: Cladiella laciniosa, Cladiella latissima, and Cladiella sphaerophora
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Parategastes conexus

  • Host: Stereonephthya ulicoides
  • Maximum Reported Size (female): 0.41mm
    image045.jpg

    Figure 24. Parategastes conexus, a parasite known only from the soft coral Stereonephthya.

  • Maximum Reported Size (male): 0.43mm
  • Color: Opaque pale grayish tan, eye red, genital area bright red, egg sacs gray.
  • Order: Harpacticoida
  • Family: Tegastidae
  • Locality: Moluccas Islands
  • Reference: Humes, 1984

Zamolgus acanthodes

  • Host: Sinularia arborea
  • Maximum Reported Size, female: 1.09mm
  • Maximum Reported Size, male: 0.78mm
  • Color: Translucent, with a few red globules within the prosome, the eye is red and the egg sacs are opaque
    image047.jpg

    Figure 25. Zamolgus acanthodes. Other Zamolgus species are found on the soft coral Cespitularia.

  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Zamolgus cracens

  • Host: Cespitularia multipinnata
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Dojiri, 1979

Zamolgus tridens

  • Host: Cespitularia turgida
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

 

Parasites of Anemones

image049.jpg

Figure 26. Aspidomolgus stoichactinus.

Anemones are quite popular inhabitants of reef aquaria, if sometimes only to act as a home to anemone fishes. We often think of successful maintenance of anemones as meeting their photosynthetic and nutritional requirements. Is there more we should consider? Can an active copepod infestation harm anemones, either through predation or their acting as vectors of disease?

Aspidomolgus stoichactinus

  • Host: Stichodactyla gigantea (formerly Stoichactis helianthus)
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Barbados, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Bahamas
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Critomolgus actiniae (formerly Doridicola actiniae)

  • Hosts: Actinia concentrica, Anemonia sculata, andActinia equina
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: England, France, Italy
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image051.jpg

    Figure 27. Critomolgus actiniae, described exclusively from anemones.

Doridicola antheae

  • Host: Anemonia sculata
  • Note: There is some doubt about the taxonomic status of this copepod – further descriptions are needed.

Doridicola cuspis (formerly Metaxymolgus cuspis)

  • Hosts: Radianthis ritteri and Stoichactis giganteum (now Stichodactyla giganteum)
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Location: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola gemmatus

  • Host: Stoichactis giganteum (now Stichodactyla giganteum)
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola magnificus

  • Host: Stichodactyla giganteum (formerly Stoichactis giganteum)
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Doridicola mayorae

  • Host: Stoichactis haddoni
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973
    image053.jpg

    Figure 28. Paranthessius anemoniae.

Paranthessius anemoniae

  • Hosts: Anemonia sp., Anemonia sculata
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: France, Italy
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

 

Parasites of Zoanthids

image055.jpg

Figure 29. Zoanthids are subject to copepod infestations. Photo courtesy of Steve Ruddy (www.coralreefecosystems.com).

Zoanthids have achieved a cult following among many reef aquarists, and with good reason. Their sometimes intense coloration combined with relative ease of maintenance has made them perennial favorites. However, successful husbandry should consider all relevant factors, including parasites.

Doridicola inaequalis

  • Hosts: Palythoa liscia and Palythoa tuberculosa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Ho, 1966 in Humes and Stock, 1973

Indomolgus brevisetosus

image057.jpg

Figure 30. Indomolgus brevisetosus, dorsal view.

  • Hosts: Palythoa tuberculosa and Palythoa liscia
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Indomolgus diversus

  • Hosts: Palythoa tuberculosa and Palythoa liscia
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
    image059.jpg

    Figure 31. Indomolgus brevisetosus, lateral view

  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Ho, 1966

Temnomolgus erynotus

  • Host: Palythoa tuberculosa
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
    image061.jpg

    Figure 32. Temnomolgus erynotus, dorsal view.

  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Ho, 1966 in Humes and Stock, 1973

 

Parasites of False Corals (Corallimorpharians)

The grouping of ‘false corals’ includes genera Discosoma, Rhodactis, and many others. Although limited information is available, we as hobbyists should believe that all false corals species are potential victims of copepod parasites.

Paramolgus politus

  • Host: Rhodactis rhodostoma
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
    image063.jpg

    Figure 33. Paramolgus politus, dorsal view.

  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

Paramolgus simulans

  • Host: Rhodactis rhodostoma
  • Order: Poecilostomatoida
  • Family: Rhynchomolgidae
  • Locality: Madagascar
  • Reference: Humes and Stock, 1973

 

Conclusions

It should be apparent that many (if not most or even all) marine invertebrates popular in reef aquaria are subject to infestations by parasitic copepods. However, we can only speculate at the amount of harm they actually cause.

As a very rough analogy, we can examine how a common parasite might affect its host. Our example is an insect – a flea. They are an inconvenience to many animals but usually not fatal. However, under different circumstances the flea is a vector of deadly disease. Consider the role of fleas in the transmission of bubonic plague (the Black Death) to humans. Fleas were carriers of bacteria obtained while feeding on the blood of rats, and transmitted this ailment to humans.

Are aquatic copepods capable of transmitting disease among marine invertebrates? Ivanenko and Smurov (1996) raise the interesting possibility that copepods might introduce pathogens to its host. This could perhaps explain why some copepods infestations are relatively harmless, while seemingly mild cases of parasitism cause rapid decline and death of the host. As a footnote, the pathogenic bacteria Vibrio has been found attached to some copepods’ exoskeletons (though not specifically ‘coral’ copepods or any Vibrio species known to infect scleractinians).

Disease issues aside, the potential of harm to the coral host by parasites is likely best considered on a case by case basis. It is difficult to believe a large soft coral existing under conditions of optimal lighting, water motion and nutrition could be significantly harmed by even a severe parasite infestation. On the other hand, non-photosynthetic corals are often nutritionally deprived due to either lack of proper food or poor water motion (or their synergistic effects). In this case it seems quite possible that the coral animal could have difficulty in coping with the amount of energy required for tissue repair and maintenance.

The amount of trauma inflicted by parasitic copepods should be considered. A small amount of damage to the thin layers of tissues covering a small-polyp stony coral (such as Acropora species) could possibly have more of an impact on its health than, say, the amount of damage done to a fleshy soft coral.

With as much information as we have, our understanding of soft coral parasites leaves much to be desired. At present, even the acknowledgement of their existence by hobbyists is extremely rare, much less confirmations of these copepods’ presence in aquaria. Do these parasites exist on the external portions of corals, or are they endoparasites inhabiting the polyp guts?

We have little reason to believe that existing treatments and quarantine/pretreatment protocols would not be effective against these ‘bugs’. However, this too remains to be proven.

This article concludes our brief and incomplete look at copepods capable of potentially harming our captive animals. However, the series will continue with reports of other parasites, including nudibranchs, sea spiders and other ‘creepy-crawlies’.

 

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Steve Ruddy of Coral Reef Ecosystems (www.coralreefecosystems.com) and Michael P. Janes of AquaTouch (www.aquatouch.com) for providing photographs for this article.

Comments? Questions? Please leave correspondence below.

Table One. Listing of Parasites by Host
Invertebrate HostParasite
Acanthogorgia asperaAcanthomolgus astrictus
Acanthogorgia asperaThamnomolgus robustus
Actinia concentricaCritomolgus actiniae
Actinia equinaCritomolgus actiniae
Alcyonacean tissue’Paramolgus anomalus
Alcyonium acauleDoridicola bulbipes
Anemonia sculataCritomolgus actiniae
Anemonia sculataDoridicola antheae
Anemonia sculataParanthessius anemoniae
Anthelia glaucaDoridicola antheliae
Anthelia gracilisParadoridicola triquetrus
Anthelia sp.Monomolgus unihastatus
Anthelia ternatanaDoridicola antheliae
Antillogorgia ascerosaAcanthomolgus cuneipes
Antillogorgia elasticaAcanthomolgus bilobipes
AntipathesThamnomolgus robustus
Antipathes abiesParamolgus insectus
Antipathes exicoidesParamolgus constrictus
Antipathes myriophyllaParamolgus insectus
Antipathes myriophylliaThamnomolgus nodulus
Antipathes spinescensParamolgus insectus
Cespitularia multipinnataZamolgus cracens
Cespitularia turgidiaZamolgus tridens
Cladiella krempfiCritomolgus foxi
Cladiella krempfiDoridicola hetaericus
Cladiella laciniosaDoridicola hetaericus
Cladiella laciniosaParedomolgus decorus
Cladiella lacinosaCritomolgus foxi
Cladiella latissimaCritomolgus foxi
Cladiella latissimaParedomolgus decorus
Cladiella pachycladosCritomolgus foxi
Cladiella pachycladosDoridicola cincinnatus
Cladiella pachycladosDoridicola hetaericus
Cladiella pachycladosDoridicola mimicus
Cladiella sphaerophoraCritomolgus foxi
Cladiella sphaerophoraParedomolgus decorus
Coelogorgia palmosaParamolgus clavatus
Coelogorgia palmosaTelestacicola angoti
Dendronephthya cirsiumAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya koellikeriAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya koellikeriAcanthomolgus gentilis
Dendronephthya koellikeriAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya lokobeensisAcanthomolgus gentilis
Dendronephthya lokobeensisAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya mucronataAcanthomolgus cuneipes
Dendronephthya mucronataAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya mucronataAcanthomolgus gentilis
Dendronephthya mucronataAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya puetteriAcanthomolgus boholensis
Dendronephthya regiaAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya regiaAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya sp.Acanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya speciosaAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya speciosaAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya speciosaAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya stockiAcanthomolgus exilipes
Dendronephthya stockiAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Dendronephthya stockiContomolgus lokobeensis
Echinogorgia sassapoAcanthomolgus affinis
Echinogorgia sassapoAcanthomolgus combinatus
Eunicella strictaDoridicola botulosus
Heteroxenia elisabethaeAcanthomolgus verseveldti
Heteroxenia fuscescensAcanthomolgus verseveldti
Hippopus hippopusAnthessius amicalis
Lemnalia africanaDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia africanaDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia amabilisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia amabilisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia cervicornisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia cervicornisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia cervicornisParamolgus clavatus
Lemnalia crassicaulisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia crassicaulusDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia crassicaulusDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia crassicaulusParamolgus clavatus
Lemnalia digitataDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia digitataDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia digitataDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia elegansDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia elegansDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia flavaDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia flavaDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia humesiAcanthomolgus fissisetiger
Lemnalia longiramusDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia longiramusDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia longiramusDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia longiramusParamolgus clavatus
Lemnalia madagascarensisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia madagascarensisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia madagascarensisDoridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia sp.Doridicola spinulifer
Lemnalia tenuisDoridicola spinulifer
Litophyton arboreumDoridicola aculeatus
Lobophytum crassumAnsiomolgus insolens
Muricea californiaAcanthomolgus eminulus
Muricea laxaAcanthomolgus aequiseta
Muricella rubra robustaTelestacicola angoti
Nephthea aberransDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea amentaceaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea bumastaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea crassaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea filamentosaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea filamentosaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea galbuloidesAcanthomolgus abonensis
Nephthea lanternariaDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea sphaerophoraDoridicola aculeatus
Nephthea tixieraeDoridicola aculeatus
Palythoa lisciaDoridicola inaequalis
Palythoa lisciaIndomolgus brevisetosus
Palythoa lisciaIndomolgus diversus
Palythoa tuberculosaDoridicola inaequalis
Palythoa tuberculosaIndomolgus brevisetosus
Palythoa tuberculosaIndomolgus diversus
Palythoa tuberculosaTemnomolgus erynotus
Paralemnalia clavataDoridicola spinulifer
Paralemnalia polydactylaDoridicola spinulifer
Paralemnalia thyrsoidesDoridicola spinulifer
Paramuricea chameleonDoridicola botulosus
Parerythrodium fulvumMonomolgus unihastatus
Parerythropodium coralloidesDoridicola bulbipes
Parerythropodium fulvumMonomolgus unihastatus
Parerythropodium rubiginosumDoridicola singularipes
Parerythropodium sp.Doridicola singularipes
Plexaura homomallaAcanthomolgus arctatipes
Psammogorgia ramosaDoridicola cinctus
Pseudoplexaura porosaAcanthomolgus bayeri
Pseudopterogorgia americanaAcanthomolgus dionyx
Radianthus ritteriDoridicola cuspis
Rhodactis rhodostomaParamolgus politus
Rhodactis rhodostomaParamolgus simulans
Sarcophyton acutangulumParamolgus spathophorus
Sarcophyton creriplicatumAnisomolgus protentus
Sarcophyton ehrenbergiAnsiomolgus incisus
Sarcophyton glaucumAnsiomolgus protentus
Sarcophyton glaucumParamolgus spathophorus
Sarcophyton globosumAnsiomolgus protentus
Sarcophyton trocheliophorumParamolgus spathophorus
Sinularia arboreaParadoridicola sinulariae
Sinularia arboreaZamolgus acanthodes
Sinularia humesiCologomolgus dentipes
Sinularia humesiMeringomolgus hamatus
Sinularia leptocladosCologomolgus cristatus
Sinularia leptocladosCologomolgus laboutei
Sinularia leptocladosMeringomolgus facetus
Sinularia leptocladosMeringomolgus hamatus
Sinularia maximaMeringomolgus hamatus
Sinularia mayiDoridicola patulus
Sinularia minimaMeringomolgus devotus
Sinularia pedunculataParadoridicola adelphus
Sinularia polydactylaMeringomolgus facetus
Sinularia polydactylaParadoridicola adelphus
Sinularia polydactylaParadoridicola squamiger
Sinularia whiteleggiParadoridicola adelphus
Sinularia whiteleggiParadoridicola squamiger
Siphonogorgia pichoniAcanthomolgus hians
Siphonogorgia pichoniAcanthomolgus longispinifer
Solenocaulon tortuosmAcanthomolgus hales
Stereonephthya acaulisAcanthomolgus cuneipes
Stereonephthya acaulisAcanthomolgus fissisetiger
Stereonephthya acaulisAcanthomolgus gentilis
Stereonephthya cordylophoraAcanthomolgus exilipes
Stereonephthya cordylophoraAcanthomolgus gentilis
Stereonephthya cordylophoraAcanthomolgus varirostratus
Stereonephthya nosybeariaDoridicola aculeatus
Stereonephthya papyraceaAcanthomolgus fissisetiger
Stereonephthya scaphisDoridicola aculeatus
Stereonephthya sp.Parategastes conexus
Stichodactyla giganteaAspidomolgus stoichactinus
Stichodactyla giganteumCritomolgus gemmatus
Stichodactyla giganteumCritomolgus magnificus
Stichodactyla giganteumDoridicola cuspis
Stoichactis haddoniDoridicola myorae
Studeroides semperiAscetomolgus plicatus
Studeroides semperiContomolgus lokobeensis
Tridacna gigasAnthessius alatus
Tridacna gigasLichomolgus tridacnae
Tridacna maximaAnthessius alatus
Tridacna maximaAnthessius amicalis
Tridacna sp.Paclabius tumidus
Tridacna squamosaAnthessius alatus
Tridacna squamosaAnthessius amicalis
Tridacna squamosaAnthessius solidus
Tridacna squamosaLichomolgus tridacnae
Tridacna squamosaPaclabius tumidus
Umbellulifera striataAcanthomolgus gentilis
Umbellulifera striataAcanthomolgus plantei
Xenia lepidaAcanthomolgus verseveldti
Xenia macrospiculataParadoridicola glabripes
Xenia membranaceaDoridicola comparatus
Xenia membranaceaDoridicola praelongipes
Xenia membranaceaNotoxynus mundus
Xenia viridisParadoridicola glabripes

 

References

  1. Fatheree, J., 2006. Giant Clams in the Sea and the Aquarium. The Biology, Identification, and Aquarium Husbandry of Tridacnid Clams. Liquid Medium, Tampa. 227 pp.
  2. Kossmann, R., 1877. Entomostraca (l. Thiel: Lichomolgidae). In: Zool. Ergeb. Reise Küstengelb. Rothen Meeres, erste Hälfte, IV: 1-24.
  3. Heslinga, G., T. Watson and T. Isamu, 1990. Giant Clam Farming. Pacific Fisheries Development Foundation (NMFS/NOAA), Honolulu, Hawaii. 179 pp.
  4. Humes, A., 1975. Cyclopoid copepods (Lichomolgidae) associated with alcyonaceans in New Caledonia. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, No. 191. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
  5. Humes, A., and J. Stock, 1973. A revision of the Family Lichmolgidae Kossmann, 1877, cycloid copepods mainly associated with marine invertebrates. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, No. 127. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
  6. Humes, A., 1973. Cyclopoid copepods associated with marine bivalve mollusks in New Caledonia. Cah. O.R.S.T.O.M., sér. Océanogr., Vol. XI, 1:3-25.
  7. Humes, A., 1990. Synopsis of Lichomolgid copepods (Poecilostomatoid) associated with soft corals (Alcyonacea) in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Zool. Verh., 266:1-201.
  8. Humes, A., 1973. Cyclopoid copepods of the genus Acanthomolgus (Lichomolgidae) associated with gorgonians in Bermuda. J. Nat. Hist. London, 7(1):85-115.
  9. Humes, A. and G. Ewbel, 1977. Cyclopoid copepods of the genus Acanthomolgus (Lichomolgidae) associated with a gorgonian in California. Trans. Amer. Microsc. Soc., 96(1): 1-12.
  10. Kim, I., 2005. Four new species of copepods (Crustacea) associated with gorgonacean corals (Cnidaria) from Bohol, Phillipines. Korean J. Syst. Zool., 21(2):121-191.
  11. Kim, I., 2007. Copepods (Crustacea) associated with marine invertebrates from the Moluccas. Korean J. Systemat. Zool., Special Issue 6:1-126.
  12. Stock, J., 1975. On twelve species of the genus Acanthomolgus (Copepoda: Cyclopoida: Lichomolgidae) associated with West Indian octocorals. Bijdragen tat de Dierkunde. 45(2): 237-269
Categories:
  Advanced Aquarist, Advanced Aquarist
Dana Riddle
About

 Dana Riddle

  (120 articles)

I have been an aquarist since 1964 and a reef hobbyist since the mid-1980’s. I am the owner of a small laboratory (Riddle Aquatic Laboratories) that specializes in investigation of interactions between light and water motion & photosynthetic organisms (especially corals). The results of this research, resulting in almost 250 articles, have been published in Advanced Aquarist Online, Aquarium Frontiers, Koralle, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium, The Breeders’ Registry, Aquarium Fish, Marine Fish Monthly and others. My first article was published in a 1984 SeaScope and relayed my experiences with a refugium – an idea that would catch fire about a decade later. I have had the honor of making over 60 presentations to various groups, including national conferences such as the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) International Marine Aquarium Conference (IMAC), PetsFestival (Italy), regional conferences, and local clubs. I received the Marine Aquarium Society of North America (MASNA) Aquarist of the Year Award in 2011 at the MACNA conference in Des Moines.

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