Infection of Dasyatis violacea and Myliobatis aquila

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Infection of Dasyatis violacea and Myliobatis aquila

by Entobdella diadema

Infection de Dasyatis violacea et Myliobatis aquila

par Entobdella diadema

A. Paglialonga 1, L. Ferretti 2, F. Bentivegna 1

1 Stazione Zoologica “Anton Dohrn”, Villa Comunale 1, I-80121 Naples, Italy

2 Consulting Veterinary - Aquarium Stazione Zoologica


In the spring 1998, we observed skin infestation by the monogenean Entobdella diadema. We noted that not all tanks of the aquarium were infected, only the tank containing Elasmobranchs.

In particular, Dasyatis violacea and Myliobatis aquila suffered from heavy parasite loads, but not Scyliorhinus canicula or S. stellaris.

A disease caused by this marine monogenean and three different treatments were described.


Au printemps 1998, nous avons observé une infestation de la peau des poissons par le monogène Entobdella diadema.

Nous avons noté que tous les aquariums n’étaient pas infestés, mais seulement les bassins contenant des élasmobranches. Dasyatis violacea et Myliobatis aquila en particulier souffraient de taux d’infestation élevés, contrairement à Scyliorhinus canicula and S. stellaris, qui semblaient être moins atteintes.

Dans ce poster, nous décrivons le développement de ce parasite et l’action des divers traitements.


A sting ray, Dasyatis violacea, and an eagle ray, Myliobatis aquila, were maintained together with Torpedinidae and Scyliorhinidae in one tank in the Aquarium of Stazione Zoologica “Anton Dohrn” in Naples, Italy.

In the spring of 1998, the rays were frequently observed rubbing against the walls of the tank, which damaged their skin. Examination revealed that the ventral surface of the sting and eagle rays, especially the pectoral fins, were infested with a parasite. However, no such parasites were found on the skin of the other elasmobranchs.
To identify the origin of the infestation and its consequences, we collected parasites from the infected rays. The examination was performed by Scanning Electron Microscopy. We applied various procedures to find the most effective treatment for this type of parasite infestation.
This poster describes the various treatments we used to deal with the parasite problem and discusses the effect of each treatment with respect to the health of the aquarium fish.

Materials and Methods

Parasite Identification and Specification

Adult parasites were collected from infected rays and preserved in 70% ethanol. Some of them were observed with optical microscopy (Axiovert S 100, Zeiss); other were dehydrated sequentially to 100% ethanol, transferred to liquid CO2, and critical point dried. The dried samples were mounted on metal stubs and sputtered with gold. Examination was performed with a SEM 505 scanning electron microscope (Philips).

The parasite was identified as Entobdella diadema Monticelli 1901. Adult specimens measured 5 mm in length.


Three different treatments were used to control the infection.


4% Formalin +

70% Ethanol

Praziquantel 10 mg/L

(Droncit, Bayer AG, Leverkusen

Freshwater (D. violacea only)

Exposure time

< 1 min

3 h

15 min and 10 min (with 10 min interval in seawater)

Number of applications


with a 1-month interval

1 for M. Aquila

2 for D. violacea

with a 1-year interval


with a 3-month interval


Rinsing of ventral skin

Immersion in 500-l tank (M. aquila) and 400-l tank (D. violacea)

Bath in 75-l tank

Water temperature

Applications 1: 14°C

Applications 2: 13°C

Applications 1: 12°C

Applications 2: 15.5°C

Applications 1: 17°C

Applications 2: 24°C

Table 1: Treatments of Entobdella diadema infestation on Dasyatis violacea

and Myliobatis aquila

Results and conclusions

Our results are based on observations of adult parasites.

The treatments used varied in their effect on the parasite infestation.

  1. Formalin and Ethanol:

We used 4% formalin and 70% ethanol as antiseptics and to facilitate detachment of adult parasites. We observed that such chemicals damaged the parasites, making it easier to remove them by hand from the skin of the rays.

  1. Praziquantel:

Praziquantel dissolved in seawater was effective in eliminating Entobdella diadema from the skin of two rays.

  1. Freshwater bath:

We observed rapid complete detachment and effective killing of E. diadema after the first exposure.
The treatments with praziquantel and freshwater bath were the most effective to eliminate adult E. diadema monogeneans.
Nevertheless, the third treatment appeared to be less stressful to the hosts than the second. Immediately following the applications, the stingray treated with freshwater bath showed regular behavior in the display tank and fed regularly.

In fact, the use of freshwater to treat marine ectoparasites is not a new therapy, and many marine fish can tolerate brief immersion in freshwater; even if the efficacy of this treatments must be evaluated for each species (Kaneko II J.J. et al., 1988; Noga, 1996; Svendsen and Haug, 1991).

We have also observed that Entobdella diadema causes severe skin lesions in Myliobatis aquila, in particular near the gills and mouth. By contrast, Dasyatis violacea showed pathology on one eye, corneal ulceration, with subsequent loss of it functionality.
It is well known that this monogenean is an epidermal feeder producing lesions in the mucous and epidermis, thereby facilitating secondary infections by microorganisms (Kearn 1963, a).
Therefore, further studies are warranted to better understand the life cycle and biology of Entobdella diadema, to able to treat the eggs of this parasite, and control infestation by this species in the Naples Aquarium.


The authors thank Dr. Diamant, Dr. Cone and Dr. Whittington for their collaboration in identifying the parasite.


Kaneko II J.J., Yamada R., Brock J.A. and Nakamura R. M., 1988.-Infection of tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus (Trewavas), by a marine monogenean, Neobenedenia melleni (MacCallum, 1927) Yamaguti, 1963 in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, USA, and its treatment-. Journal of Fish Diseases. 11: 295-300.

Kearn G.C., 1963.- The egg, oncomiracidium and larval development of Entobdella soleae, a monogenean skin parasite of the common sole-. Parasitology. 53: 435-447.

Monticelli F.S., 1902.- A proposito di una nuova specie del genere Epibdella-Boll. Soc. Nat. Napoli. 15: 137-145.

Noga J. Edward, 1996.- Fish disease. Diagnosis and treatment-. Iowa State University Press.

Yngvar Stavset Svendsen and Tore Haug, 1991.- Effectiveness of formalin, benzocaine, and hypo- and hyper-saline exposures against adults and eggs of Entobdella hippoglossi (Muller), an ectoparasite on Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus L.), Laboratory studies-. Aquaculture. 94: : 279-289.

Bulletin de l’Institut océanographique, Monaco, n° spécial 20, fascicule 1 (2001)

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