The finding is the first suspected case of Trichomonas in a fish, DeWoody said. While it's unclear how the parasite might affect lake sturgeon, DeWoody said it could negatively impact the fish's reproductive ability, which is especially alarming in a species of conservation concern.
"If it has the same effect in lake sturgeon as it does in humans, that wouldn't be good," he said.
Since lake sturgeon populations are declining and endangered in some places, a less invasive procedure to determine sex would be valuable for those studying lake sturgeon and potentially other species of sturgeon that are similarly threatened. DeWoody and Hale were able to identify a gene thought to play a role in sex determination, but it was found to be expressed in both males and females.
Next, DeWoody and Hale would like to determine the effect - if any - the Trichomonas parasite has on lake sturgeon.
Hale said lake sturgeon can live more than 100 years, and females do not reach sexual maturity for more than 20 years. Even then, they only lay eggs about every five years. Understanding how a pathogen or humans are affecting the sturgeon could be key to conserving them.
"Humans can have an effect very quickly and very easily on the sturgeon population," Hale said.
|Contact: Brian Wallheimer|