SPAGHETTI WORMS

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS - Lou DeNi­cola Jack­sonville, Flor­ida

As a bi­ol­ogy ma­jor, I learned about the life cy­cle of var­i­ous par­a­sites. The worms present in the tail sec­tion of am­ber­jack seem to be live worms and not dor­mant cysts (like trichi­nosis). What are they, and what is their life cy­cle? Do they have an in­ter­me­di­ate host? Would they even­tu­ally in­vade the en­tire fish? Do they im­pede the fish? And if eaten un­cooked, would they in­fect hu­mans?

Sev­eral ces­tode (tape­worm) par­a­sites have been de­scribed from greater am­ber­jack (Se­ri­ola dumer­ili), and ces­todes as a group in­fest many dif­fer­ent fishes, uti­liz­ing them as ei­ther in­ter­me­di­ate or fi­nal hosts. Based on the num­ber of par­a­sites and their lo­ca­tion in your catch, you ap­pear to have en­coun­tered Pseu­do­gril­lo­tia zer­biae, one species of what are col­lec­tively re­ferred to as spaghetti worms. P. zer­biae in­fes­ta­tions ap­pear to be fairly spe­cific to jacks (fam­ily Carangi­dae), and es­pe­cially to mem­bers of the genus Se­ri­ola, al­though this worm has also been re­ported from black mar­lin and pi­lot­fish. The par­a­site’s ple­ro­cer­coid stage, which you ob­served, is most com­monly found in the mus­cu­la­ture of its host’s tail re­gion and ad­ja­cent to its spine. Hap­pily, mam­malian ex­per­i­ments have shown that P. zer­biae is harm­less to hu­mans if in­gested. Am­ber­jack serve as in­ter­me­di­ate hosts for these spaghetti worms; sim­i­lar ces­todes usu­ally ma­ture in sharks, and this is also likely the case for P. zer­biae. — Ray Wald­ner

Spaghetti worms

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