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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Sealworm (Pseudoterranova decipiens) infection in grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), cod (Gadus morhua) and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) in the Baltic Sea

Lunneryd, Sven-Gunnar; Boström, Maria; Aspholm, Paul Eric


The anisakid nematode Pseudoterranova decipiens, known as the sealworm or cod worm, can infect the flesh of several fish species. The parasite causes cosmetic problems for the fish industry and can cause abdominal discomfort if consumed by humans. There are only scattered studies on the abundance or distribution of the sealworm in fish and seals in the Baltic Sea. To remedy this situation, the extent of sealworm infection was investigated in cod (Gadus morhua) and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) collected along the Swedish coast. A relative presence of the sealworm was also investigated in samples from grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) stomachs. Up to 100 % of the fish were infected in some of the areas. Sculpin were generally worse infected than cod, both in abundance and prevalence of parasites. General linear models showed a significant correlation between the number of seals in an area and the prevalence of sealworms in cod. There was a sharp decrease of infected fish in areas with salinity lower than 7 aEuro degrees. Even though the northern Baltic proper and the southern Bothnian Sea have a high number of grey seals, only one sealworm was found in a sculpin in that region, and none in cod. In grey seal stomachs the sealworm was only found in samples from the central Baltic proper; further north, all anisakid nematodes identified in seals were Contracaecum osculatum. The results indicate that seal presence drives the distribution in the southern parts of the Baltic and that low salinity, or some other variable which correlates with salinity, limits the distribution in the northern part.


Baltic Sea; Cod; Grey seal; Pseudoterranova; Sealworm; Sculpin

Published in

Parasitology Research
2015, volume: 114, number: 1, pages: 257-264

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Boström, Maria (Ovegård, Maria)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Aspholm, Paul Eric
Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk)

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