Researchers Look for Clues in Brine Shrimp, Parasites

OGDEN, Utah – Scientists at Weber State University are conducting research that could have implications for brine shrimp throughout the world, including the Great Salt Lake and its multimillion-dollar industry.

Cestode Parasite
Assistant zoology professor Nicole Okazaki and Stella Redón Calvillo, a graduate student at the Instituto de Acuicultura Torre de la Sal in Spain, have been working throughout the summer studying the role of brine shrimp in the life cycles of cestode parasites (tapeworms) in water fowl. It wasn’t until the summer of 2008, however, that scientists even knew that the cestode parasites lived in Great Salt Lake brine shrimp during their larval stage.

Redón, who has spent the past four months in Ogden, hopes the research will answer why brine shrimp cysts from the Great Salt Lake, that are shipped all over the world for use as food in aquaculture, are destroying native shrimp wherever they go. “The American shrimp eliminate all the native populations in Spain,” she said. “In a few years, they just disappear.” 

While in Utah, Redón has spent the bulk of her time examining thousands of brine shrimp samples. “With this research we want to know if American Artemia franciscana (brine shrimp) plays the same role in the life cycles of cestode parasites of birds as the Artemia franciscana introduced in Spain,” she said. “We will be able to understand the possible ecological consequences in these ecosystems.”

The research also has implications for bird populations that live near the Great Salt Lake. Cestode parasite larvae develop in brine shrimp. When a bird eats an infected shrimp, the parasite grows into a tapeworm that can ultimately kill the affected bird.

Redón sought out Okazaki because of her expertise with brine shrimp. Okazaki believes that brine shrimp are important because they serve as a model species for scientific testing.

“Brine shrimp can survive harsh conditions, such as temperatures or poison,” she said, “so they’re ideal for testing things like toxicology in a lab. They also are transparent, so because of that you can actually better study their life cycle by observing the organs.”

Redón will discuss her research at a presentation on Sept. 18 at 12:30 p.m. in Lind Lecture Hall Room 130 on WSU’s Ogden campus.

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Travis Clemens, assistant director of Media Relations
801-626-7948 •
Nicole Okazaki, assistant professor of zoology
801-626-6168 •