Thursday, March 5, 2020

New Paper on digenean cercariae (Pronocephaloidea)

It was studying snails infected with digeneans that sparked my interest in the group originally, so I'll always have a soft spot for projects working on digenean cercariae. A recent paper that has come out of the Marine Parasitology Laboratory at the University of Queensland (with me as a co-author) characterizes a number of cercariae which belong to a interesting digenean lineage, marine species of which parasitise the respiratory and alimentary tracts of birds, turtles and mammals.

T.H. Cribb, P.A. Chapman, S.C. Cutmore and D.C. Huston. 2020. Pronocephaloid cercariae (Platyhelminthes: Trematoda) from gastropods of the Queensland coast, Australia. The Journal of Helminthology.

We described five new pronocephaloid cercariae and provided molecular sequences for each species. We suspect that these species are parasites of marine turtles or perhaps mammals (dugongs), as none of them were found in a clade with the major family of bird parasites of this lineage (Notocotylidae). There are almost no molecular resources for adult pronocephaloids from turtles, so unsurprisingly we did not get a match for any of our cercariae with an adult. Marine turtles are, and will likely continue to be, under threat and are protected in Australia - so I don't foresee a large, modern, molecular-grade collection of pronocephaloids from marine turtles becoming available for study any time soon (and that's probably a good thing). Thus, collections from gastropods represent a great molecular resource for expanding the pronocephaloid phylogeny.

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