Saturday, May 5, 2018

Isorchis cannoni n. sp. (Digenea: Atractotrematidae) from Great Barrier Reef rabbitfishes

This paper came out as an 'online-first-view' last year, and is still languishing in 'in press' purgatory, so I thought I would go ahead and do a quick write up. Here's the citation and link:

2018. Huston, D.C., Cutmore, S.C. and Cribb, T.H. Isorchis cannoni n. sp. (Digenea: Atractotrematidae) from Great Barrier Reef rabbitfishes and the molecular elucidation of its life cycle. The Journal of Helminthology (in press). PDF

This particular story begins with Dr. Lester Cannon’s study of the cerithiid gastropod Clypeomorus batillariaeformis (then called Cerithium moniliferum, a junior synonym) from Heron Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In his 1978 publication ‘Marine Cercariae from the Gastropod Cerithium moniliferum Keiner at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef’ Cannon described 10 new trematode cercariae from C. batillariaeformis, and gave each cercariae a placeholder name and a numeral, e.g. Cercariae queenslandae I-X. The morphology of one of these cercariae (Cercaria queenslandae II) aligned closely with those known from the trematode family Haploporidae. In fact, Cannon noted that this cercariae might be that of Atractotrema sigani which was, at that time, considered a member of the Haploporidae, although today it is placed in the haploporid’s sister family Atractotrematidae. Atractotrema sigani parasitises rabbitfishes (family Siganidae), an important group of medium-sized, herbivorous marine fishes, several species of which feed on algae growing on the beachrock along Heron Island where C. batillariaeformis is found.

Cannon was about as close to the mark as one could get in those days, those days being those without molecular sequencing. In the past, elucidating life-cycles was rather difficult, and could only really be accomplished with captive populations and somewhat time-consuming experimental infections. Nowadays it is easy enough to generate molecular sequences from adult and larval trematodes and match them up!

Had molecular tools been available to Dr. Cannon, he would have quickly realised that the cercariae he had found were not those of A. sigani, and actually a species of atractotrematid yet to be discovered! This is what I found when I started a project sequencing the cercariae of C. batillariaeformis from Heron Island. When I began the project in 2015, the adult of Cercariae queenslandae II had not yet been discovered, but in 2017 we found the adults. Cannon was pretty close to the mark again: the definitive hosts turned out to be the same rabbitfishes that host A. sigani, Siganus lineatus and Siganus fuscescens. The twist was that rather than being the cercaria of a species of the genus Atractotrema, the adult match was an undescribed species of the genus Isorchis. We named this species Isorchis cannoni in honour of Dr. Lester Cannon and his work on trematodes of the Great Barrier Reef (and that he pretty much figured out the life-cycle for us already!).

Isorchis cannoni new species. A) Holotype, B) Ovarian complex

Species of Isorchis were previously known only from the milkfish Chanos chanos (family Chanidae) and the scat Selenotoca multifasciata (family Scatophagidae). This was all pretty rad as our study added a new host family to those known to be exploited by species of Isorchis and we revealed the first life-cycle known for the genus (actually the first life-cycle for a species of the Atractotrematidae). This life-cycle information may provide new insights into the evolutionary split between the Atractotrematidae and the Haploporidae, though we need to discover a few more life-cycles before we can truly delve.

Cannon, L. (1978) Marine cercariae from the gastropod Cerithium moniliferum Kiener at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 89, 45-57.


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