Rich pickings for fish parasite specialist at Ningaloo

Tom Cribb
Image: Gary Cranitch


By Angus Livingston
Monday 1 June 2009
UNLIKE most of the other scientists here, Tom Cribb has already collected specimens at Ningaloo.
An associate professor in fish parasites at the University of Queensland, Tom has been studying in his field since 1981 and has collected twice at Ningaloo in the past decade.
He took the opportunity to join the CReefs trip here to get involved in a group that was looking at biodiversity.
"Essentially all the field work I've done previously has been entirely focused on the parasites," he said. "It's interesting to see and learn what other folk are doing."
Fish parasites do not necessarily spend their entire life cycles in the one fish, and can actually go through several organisms in their time.
Tom said he was pleased to be able to talk to CReefs expeditioners Clay Bryce and Corey Whisson about molluscs, as the fish parasites he finds have often passed through an invertebrate at some stage in their life.
In a bid to better understand the spread of parasites, Tom has focused on sampling fish also found on the Great Barrier Reef.
He said there is a significant overlap between the two coasts, with a large number of fish having the same parasites in both locations.
However he said there were also new species here that he had not found on the Great Barrier Reef.
Tom specialises in worms, including trematodes, nematodes and tapeworms.
Helping him out is Holly Heiniger, a PhD student from the University of Queensland and Queensland Museum.
She is here to collect myxosporeans, which are microscopic parasites that live mainly in the gall bladder and muscle.
(While this interview was taking place, Tom peered through his microscope and announced he had just discovered a new species. Such are the joys of CReefs expeditions).