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Revista Brasileira de Parasitologia Veterinária

On-line version ISSN 1984-2961

Rev. Bras. Parasitol. Vet. vol.22 no.4 Jaboticabal Oct./Dec. 2013 

Research Note

Use of a negative binomial distribution to describe the presence of Sphyrion laevigatum in Genypterus blacodes

Uso de distribuição binomial negativa para descrever a presença de Sphyrion laevigatum em Genypterus blacodes

Patricio Peña-Rehbein1  * 

Patricio De los Ríos-Escalante2 

Raúl Castro3 

Carolina Navarrete4 

1Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Facultad de Recursos Naturales, Universidad Católica de Temuco - UC TEMUCO, Temuco, Chile

2Escuela de Ciencias Ambientales, Facultad de Recursos Naturales, Universidad Católica de Temuco - UC TEMUCO, Temuco, Chile

3Departamento de Acuicultura, Facultad de Recursos del Mar, Universidad de Antofagasta - UANTOF, Antofagasta, Chile

4Independent professional, Temuco, Chile


This paper describes the frequency and number of Sphyrion laevigatum in the skin of Genypterus blacodes, an important economic resource in Chile. The analysis of a spatial distribution model indicated that the parasites tended to cluster. Variations in the number of parasites per host could be described by a negative binomial distribution. The maximum number of parasites observed per host was two.

Key words: Sphyrion laevigatum ; Genypterus blacodes ; negative binomial distribution


Este artigo descreve a frequência e o número de Sphyrion laevigatum da pele de Genypterus blacodes, o qual é um importante recurso econômico no Chile. A análise baseada em modelos de distribuição espacial, demonstrou que os parasitos tendem a ficar agrupados. A variação numérica de parasitas por hospedeiro pode ser descrita por distribuição binomial negativa. O número máximo observado de parasitas por hospedeiro foi dois.

Palavras-Chave: Sphyrion laevigatum ; Genypterus blacodes ; distribuição binomial negativa

Within the order Ophidiiformes, the genus Genypterus Philippi 1857 contains those species that are most economically important. Three of these species are found in Chilean waters: Genypterus chilensis (Guichenot, 1881), Genypterus maculatus (Tschudi, 1846) and Genypterus blacodes (Forster, 1801), the latter being the most economically significant of the three (CANALES-AGUIRRE et al., 2010). Genypterus blacodes are elongate ell-like fish that are confined to the continental shelf and slope of the southern hemisphere, including the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile (CANALES-AGUIRRE et al., 2010; CORDO, 2001; FRANCIS et al., 2002; RIFFO, 1994; WARD; REILLY, 2001). G. blacodes is a tertiary predator characterized by a diet that is dominated by demersal and benthic fish (NYEGAARD et al., 2004; RENZI, 1986).

The genus Sphyrion is comprised of three species, Sphyrion laevigatum (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), Sphyrion lumpi (Krøyer, 1845) and Sphyrion quadricornis Gaevskaya & Kovaleva, 1984 (HO, 1992; WALTER; BOXSHALL, 2012). S. lumpi is a common parasite of deep water pelagic fish in the Atlantic Ocean, New Zealand, and the Beaufort Sea (GORDON, 2009; HO; KIM, 1989; MILLER, 2012; WOO, 2006). Other studies have investigated the ecology of S. laevigatum among populations of G. blacodes in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Falkland Islands (BRICKLE et al., 2003), but in general, the ecological characteristics of parasitic copepods have been poorly investigated. To date, copepods have been found to be parasitic in less than 2% of aquatic invertebrates and less than 20% of fish (MORALES-SERNA; GOMEZ, 2012).

Damage inflicted by Sphyrion spp. is mainly aesthetic, as the parasites leave unsightly scars deep in the flesh of affected fish (PAINE, 1986). Holdfasts that are left behind following parasite death cause abscesses 2 cm or more in length. In Germany, regulations prohibit the sale of fillets that are more than 5% affected by the parasite for human consumption, and therefore heavily infected fish are used for fish meal or pet food (WOO, 2006). The aim of this study is to determine the frequency distribution of S. laevigatum on G. blacodes using probabilistic models.

We studied two hundred and nine Genypterus blacodes samples obtained in June and July of 2012 from two marketplaces and one supermarket in Temuco, Chile. Parasites isolated from the skin of the fish were fixed in 96% ethyl alcohol and stored in properly labeled containers until analysis was performed at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile.

The pattern of randomness in the distribution of the number of parasites per host was investigated (ZAR, 1999). We used the variance/mean ratio and the Morisita index to characterize the data as randomly patterned, uniform or clustered (PEÑA-REHBEIN; DE LOS RIOS-ESCALANTE, 2012). Furthermore we applied the Poisson distribution, the negative binomial distribution or the binomial distribution according to the data pattern observed. We used a χ 2 test to evaluate the fit of the data to the expected distribution (FERNANDES et al., 2003). All analyses were performed with the XLSTAT 5.0 program (Addinsoft, New York, USA).

The values of the variance/mean ratio and the Morisita index were 1.16 and 105.72 respectively. These results showed that the data followed an overdispersed frequency distribution in their hosts. We therefore used the negative binomial distribution to model the data. The data fit this distribution (χ 2 Observed = 0.037 < χ 2 table = 28.336; p > 0.05). Many individuals were found not to contain S. laevigatum. The maximum observed number of parasites was two per host (Table 1, Figure 1).

Figure 1. Expected and observed frequencies for the negative binomial distribution model describing the presence of Sphyrion laevigatum in the skin of Genypterus blacodes obtained from the fish market of Temuco (Araucanía region, Chile). 

Table 1. Numbers of Sphyrion laevigatum parasites observed in the skin of Genypterus blacodes samples obtained from the fish market of Temuco (Araucanía region, Chile). 

Number of parasites observed Number of G. blacodes with parasites
0 171
1 29
2 9
3 0
4 0
5 0
6 0
7 0
8 0
9 0
10 0

Our findings are similar to the results of Peña-Rehbein and De los Rios-Escalante (2012) who studied the nematode Anisakis in Thyrsites atun. Confirmation of a negative binomial distribution describing the number of parasites per host suggests a robust model that permits an informative interpretation of parasite distribution patterns (SHAW et al., 1998).

This study was funded by the Veterinary Medicine School and Environmental Sciences School of the Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile.


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Received: April 19, 2013; Accepted: October 1, 2013

*Corresponding author: Patricio Peña-Rehbein, Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Facultad de Recursos Naturales, Universidad Católica de Temuco - UC TEMUCO, Manuel Montt, 56, Casilla 15-D, Temuco, Chile, e-mail:

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