Advances in hybridization practices in U.S. catfish aquaculture have led to increased production of channel (Ictalurus punctatus) × blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) hybrids to capitalize on their more favorable production characteristics. However, the effects of typical channel catfish pathogens on hybrids are not well understood, including the digenean Bolbophorus damnificus, which has caused significant losses in channel catfish production. Three experiments were conducted to assess the longevity and site specificity of 2 life stages of B. damnificus impacting catfish production. The first experiment investigated the cercarial longevity and infectivity of B. damnificus over time. Channel catfish were individually challenged with 100 cercariae/fish with cercariae aged in 12-hr time intervals over 5 days (n = 5 fish/time point), with metacercarial cysts excised and enumerated 14 days postchallenge. There was a decrease in cercaria viability and encysted metacercariae over the first 36 hr, with the 12-hr time point having both the greatest cercaria survival and the highest number of metacercariae in exposed fish. The second experiment investigated the longevity of metacercariae within both channel and hybrid catfish. Fish (n = 30) were exposed to 2 treatments (75 or 150 cercariae/fish), and 2 fish from each treatment were sampled every 3 mo for 13 mo. Live metacercariae, based on motility observed after excystment, were found in both species up to 13 mo postchallenge, indicating the metacercariae of B. damnificus can persist throughout an entire growing season in both channel and hybrid catfish. The third experiment investigated the site specificity of metacercariae within both channel and hybrid catfish. Fish (n = 60/species) were challenged with 300 cercariae/fish and 9 fish/species were sampled after 90 days. Metacercariae were excised and enumerated from the anterior midsection (head and body), posterior midsection (trunk/caudal peduncle), ventral (belly), and caudal fin (tail) sections of each fish. Overall, the trunk/caudal peduncle had a 2-fold increase in the number of metacercariae excised, and although not significantly higher, results indicate this region should be the focal point of pondside assessment for the presence of B. damnificus because of ease of detection of encysted metacercariae.

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