Behavioural adaptations of argulid parasites (Crustacea: Branchiura) to major challenges in their life cycle Parasites and Vectors - Sat, 25/07/2015 - 01:00 Fish lice (Argulus spp.) are obligate ectoparasites, which contrary to most aquatic parasites, retain the ability to swim freely throughout the whole of their life. In fish farms, they can quickly increase in numbers and without effective control cause argulosis, which results in the reduced growth and survival of their fish hosts. The morphology of Argulus spp, including their sensory organs, is suitable for both parasitism and free-swimming. By spending a considerable amount of time away from their host, these parasites risk being excessively dispersed, which could endanger mating success. Here we present a review of recent studies on the behaviour of Argulus spp, especially the aggregative behaviour that mitigates the dilution of the parasite population. Aggregation of parasites, which is especially important during the period of reproduction, occurs on different scales and involves both the aggregation of the host and the aggregation of the parasites on the host. The main behavioural adaptations of Argulus spp, including searches for hosts and mates, host manipulation and host choice, are all focused on the fish. As these ectoparasites repeatedly change hosts and inflict skin damage, they can act as vectors for fish pathogens. The development of environmentally friendly measures for the control and prevention of argulosis needs to take into account the behaviour of the parasites.