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Sea lice
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Sharing the inner secrets of the salmon louse

The salmon louse genome project has progressed to the point where the genome resources can be used in developing new salmon louse treatments. The genomic resources will therefore be made available to researchers.

Revealing the secrets locked in a genome is not a trivial task. First the genome has to be broken into small pieces where the individual nucleotide sequences are mapped. Thereafter, the pieces of sequence have to be put back together – and the result has to be checked. Only then we can reveal the secrets of the genome. Although much work remains to be done in the Salmon Louse Genome Project, the involved researchers consider the project to be a success.

- Our reconstructed genome is of better technical quality than we hoped for when the project started and better than the quality of reconstructed genomes from many other sequenced organisms, says project leader Rasmus Skern-Mauritzen.

What is a genome?

A genome consists of strings of four nucleotides in an apparently random sequence. These are commonly denoted by the letters A, T, G and C. In a genome sequencing project the sequence of the nucleotides is established.

- This may seem like tedious reading, but advanced computer programs and trained operators make it possible to find the interesting messages in this seemingly meaningless cloud of letters; namely the genes and the elements that control them, says the project leader Skern-Mauritzen.

Identification of the genes in the genome has just recently started and is done primarily by The European Bioinformatics Institute, The Salmon Louse Research Centre and The Institute of Marine Research. Sequencing was financed by Institute of Marine Research, the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund and Marine Harvest. The downstream analyses are financed by the Institute of Marin Research and the Sea Louse Research Centre.

How to get access to the data?

Access to the genome resources can be obtained from March 1st by contacting Rasmus Skern-Mauritzen.


Facts about sea lice

Latin name: Lepeophtheirus salmonis
Distribution: occur naturally in Norwegian waters. Their numbers have risen significantly in parallel with the growth of the aquaculture industry.
Biology: sea lice are parasites with eight life stages, three of which are free-swimming, two of which are stationary and three of which are mobile. They attach themselves to salmon in the third life stage.
Size: adult female: 12 mm (approx. 29 mm including egg strings); adult male: 6 mm.
Diet: the skin and blood of salmonids. The lice only start feeding when they have attached themselves to a host fish (stationary and mobile stages).
Reproduction: all year round, but reproduce increasingly quickly as temperatures rise in spring.
Dispersal: free-swimming stages spread on currents in fjords and coastal waters.
Treatment: biological methods (wrasse) or chemicals (medication).

Sea lice