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DNA Markers Identify Threat of Salmon Farm Lice

by 5m Editor
20 May 2009, at 1:00am

VANCOUVER, CANADA DNA research at the University of Guelph has provided insight into a perplexing environmental problem on British Columbia's west coast, where fish farms have been blamed for lice epidemics that have devastated wild salmon stocks.

Researchers have long known that fish farms are incubators for lice and that wild salmon stocks in the vicinity of farms, particularly in the Broughton Archipelago off northeast Vancouver Island, have suffered from devastating lice infestations, writes Mark Hume for TheGlobeAndMail.

But, according to the news organisation, because lice are almost invisible at the larvae stage, it has been impossible for researchers to track the parasites as they drift with ocean currents from host to host.

Now a team led by Elizabeth Boulding, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, has used DNA barcoding techniques to trace the path of transmission of lice to and from wild fish.

DNA barcodes are short genetic markers that – much like barcodes on supermarket items – allow researchers to quickly identify differences between species, or population differences within a species. Now researchers can tell how far away farm lice have to be, before there is no longer a danger of their larva being transmitted to the wild salmon.

5m Editor

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