Ecological, morphological, and molecular studies of Acanthocheilonema odendhali (Nematoda: Filarioidea) in northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) on St. Paul Island, Alaska
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Studies of northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus Linnaeus, 1758) infection by the filariid nematode Acanthocheilonema odendhali were carried out in 2011–2012 on St. Paul Island, Pribilof Archipelago, Alaska. Skins of 502 humanely harvested northern fur seals from haul-out areas of five rookeries, Polovina (n = 122), Morjovi (n = 54), Zapadni (n = 72), Lukanin (n = 109), and Gorbatch (n = 145), were examined. A. odendhali was found in 18 % of northern fur seals. The prevalence of infection ranged from 12.5 % up to 22.9 % on different haul-out areas on the island. The mean intensity of infection was 1.3 (range 1–7). Detailed morphological examination of collected specimens was performed using light microscopy. Several characters were added to the morphological description of the species, among them lateral thickening of the body cuticle, especially prominent in males, variations in number and position of genital papillae in males, transverse striation of the cuticle, and terminal dilation on tail end in microfilariae. The adult specimens studied had a shorter esophagus than type specimens from the California sea lion described by Perry (1967). Comparison of partial sequences of the mitochondrial cox1 gene from specimens collected from five sampling sites on St. Paul Island and a specimen from the type host and territory in California showed no significant differences and strongly supported conspecificity of the material from Alaska with A. odendhali.
The investigation (Paper No. 13-14-045) is approved by the director of the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. The research was done under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act Permit Number 14327 issued to the National Marine Mammal Laboratory.
The authors thank Dr. Igor Dzeverin from the Institute of Zoology NAS of Ukraine for his assistance with statistical analysis the results. The authors also thank Dr. Frances Gulland, Chief Veterinarian from The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, California, and to Dr. Greta Karfsur, Colorado State University Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, Fort Collins, Colorado, for collecting Acanthocheilonema specimens from California sea lions and a bearded seal used in molecular studies.
The images of helminthes were made at the Center of collective use of scientific equipment “Animalia” (Institute of Zoology NAS of Ukraine).
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