Head and Lateral Line Erosion Syndrome in Ocean Surgeons (Acanthurus bahianus), Current Efforts to Determine Etiologies
IAAAM Archive
M. Andrew Stamper; A. Jeanene McCoy; Allison Corwin
Disney's Animal Programs, The Living Seas, Epcot®, Walt Disney World® Resort
Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA


Head and Lateral Line Erosion Syndrome in fish has long been a frustration of the aquarium and pet industry. The disease syndrome, which causes dermal erosions of the head and or body regions along the lateral line, has been well described, but the underlying cause remains unclear and has been a focus of much debate.1 The true pathophysiology of the disease has not been determined, and the anecdotal information is profuse. Implicated causative agents include (not all-encompassing) activated carbon, parasites, carbon dust, heavy metals such as copper, electrical currents, endotoxins, ozone and U.V. radiation exposure products, as well as nutrient deficiencies including vitamins A and C. Of these suspected causes, the authors could only determine that heavy metals, including copper, appear to have been formally studied in a controlled situtation.2 Over the last several years, researchers from The Living Seas and the University of Florida have partnered to systematically examine possible etiologic agents for Head and Lateral Line Erosion Syndrome in Ocean Surgeons (Acanthurus bahianus). To date, The Living Seas' researchers have preliminarily examined the effects of in-line U.V. radiation and carbon. Of these, only carbon has produced dermatitis in distinct and consistent areas of skin including the lateral line region. Histopathological lesions consisted of acute, multifocal, moderate to severe lymphohistiocytic epidermitis and dermatitis, with multifocal severe keratinocyte ballooning degeneration, necrosis, ulceration and rare vesicle formation, though the pathology did not involve the lateral line itself. Water from this experiment is currently being analyzed to determine the carbon's effects on the water chemistries.


The authors wish to thank Wendi Fellner, Jackie Cornet, Scott Barrie, Sarah Wickman, Jennifer Thompson, Kathleen Clancy, Brian Dorn, and Allen McDowell for their assistance with fish husbandry and data collection. We would also like to acknowledge Scott Terrell for his histological assessment of the fish tissues.


1.  Blasiola GC. 1989. Description, preliminary studies and probable etiology of head and lateral line erosions (HLLE) of the palette tang, Paracanthurus hepatus (Linnaeus, 1758) and other Acanthurids. Deuxième Congrès International d'Aquariologie (1988) Monaco, 1989. Bulletin de l-Institut océanographique, Monaco, n° spécial 5: 255-263.

2.  Gardner GR. 1975. Chemically Induced Lesions in Esturine or marine Teleosts. In: Ribelin, W.E. and Migaki G. Eds. Pathology of Fishes. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. 675-693.

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M. Andrew Stamper