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Researcher: Unchartered Waters Probed as 'Malaria' of the Fish World Studied News Service
March 8, 2007 19:04 EST

QUEENSLAND, Australia -- A University of Queensland researcher is charting the unknown waters of a disease that has been dubbed the “malaria” of the fish world.

A parasite which lives in the blood of coral reef fish is being investigated by School of Integrative Biology PhD student Lynda Curtis.

“The research is the first study to investigate the effect of blood parasites on the health of coral reef fishes,” Ms Curtis said.

The parasites are thought to be spread between fish via the bite from a gnathiid isopod, the blood-sucking marine equivalent of the mosquito.

“We still don't know what affect this has on fish health,” she said.

“But we do know that preliminary surveys have found the parasites present in a wide variety of fish species that are dominant on the Great Barrier Reef, including surgeonfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, pufferfish and rock cod.

“The role these blood parasites may play in coral reef fish communities is therefore likely to be significant.”

Ms Curtis received the inaugural Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship from the Australian Museum in 2006, which will allow her to do more intensive field work at the Lizard Island Research Station in Far North Queensland.

She was also recently awarded $13,000 from the Seaworld Research and Rescue Foundation, which will enable her to extend the geographical extent of her study. Ms Curtis's project forms part of a larger study funded by the Australian Research Council.