Nofima breeding lice-eating lumpfish
17 Aug 2016
A lumpsucker eats more or less whatever it comes across. Credit: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen/Krysspress
Scientists at Nofima have begun breeding lumpsucker (lumpfish) families which have a special liking for consuming salmon lice.
“Louse eating is the sole reason that lumpsuckers are of interest to us, but not all lumpsuckers are equally keen on this diet,” said Atle Mortensen, who is heading up Nofima’s research on lumpsuckers.
“Currently, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the proportion of them that will eat lice. Some estimate 30-40%, others believe that well over 50% have this trait.”
Last year, Akvaplan-niva was given access to nine different lumpsucker families that Nofima had produced at its Centre for Marine Aquaculture in Kraknes in Tromsø. These were set out in salmon cages at Gildeskål Research Station (GIFAS) plant at Helgeland.
“Akvaplan-niva found that, of these nine families, there was one that stood out very strongly when it came to eating lice, while other families did not eat lice at all. They preferred the pellet feed that the salmon got”, explained Mr Mortensen.
Because of this, Nofima took siblings from the keenest lice eating family and used them as brood stock for some new lumpsucker families. The scientists have also produced some families based on families that did not eat lice.
Nofima now has 63 families that will be used to check out Akvaplan-niva’s findings on a larger scale. As soon as the lumpsuckers are big enough they will be put out in salmon cages in order to test their lice eating abilities under conditions that are as close to authentic as possible.
“Last year’s testing at Helgeland was the only case where we have known the family of the lumpsuckers that will eat lice. At the moment we have access to very little material, but the results indicate that eating lice might well be hereditary”, said Mr Mortensen.
Nofima says that it is the first organisation to have produced its own lumpsucker families from brood stock. The objective now is to find methods that make it easier to quantify how many lice the individual lumpsucker eats. According to Mr Mortensen, some eat only two or three, while others may have more than 50 lice in their stomachs.
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