Parasite research

At the Marine Parasitology Laboratory, James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland we study the parasites of important marine fish species.

On this website, you will find information on these parasites including what they look like, where you'll find them on fish and how they may impact on their host. You can also check out our current research projects or see what we've been up to in the photo gallery.

Parasites can be either generalists (infecting many host species) or host-specific (infect only one or a few closely related host species). Fish may obtain parasites from their food, or are directly infected by free-living parasite stages in the sea. Parasites may have complex life-cycles, involving up to 3 or more different host species (including marine invertebrates), or direct life-cycles, involving a single host species. The trematodes infecting the eye chamber of this cardinal fish (pictured) have a complex life cycle. When the fish is eaten by a sea bird the parasite will reach sexual maturity in the new host's digestive tract.

Parasites naturally occur on wild fish. Just like domestic animals have lice, fleas and tapeworms, marine fish can also host a wide variety of parasites. Some of the most common parasites include skin crawlers (copepods), tongue biters or 'doctors' (isopods), ectoparasitic flukes (monogeneans), endoparasitic flukes (digeneans), round worms (nematodes), tapeworms (cestodes) and spiny headed worms (acanthocephalans) – to name a few!