Revealing trophic transmission pathways of marine tapeworms
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Parasites are important components of natural systems, and among their various roles, parasites strongly influence the flow of energy between and within food webs. Over 1000 tapeworm species are known to parasitise elasmobranchs, although full life cycles are resolved for fewer than 10 of them. The lack in resolution stems from the inability to distinguish larval from adult stages using morphology alone. Molecular elucidation of trophic transmission pathways is the next step in understanding the role of hosts and parasites within food webs. We investigated the parasite assemblage of New Zealand’s rough skate, Zearaja nasuta. Skates and their prey items (obtained from the skates’ stomachs) were dissected for the recovery of adult and larval tapeworms, respectively. A fragment of the 28S rDNA region was amplified for worm specimens with the aim to confirm species identity of parasites within rough skates and to uncover trophic transmission pathways that exploit the predation links between rough skates and their prey. We identified seven species of tapeworms from four tapeworm orders. Four trophic transmission pathways were resolved between three prey items from skates stomachs and skates, and one pathway between larval tapeworm sequence from a New Zealand sole and skate, i.e. a genetic match was found between larval tapeworms in prey and adult worms in skates. We report the first case of an adult trypanorhynch parasitising rough skate. These findings contribute to our limited understanding of cestode life cycles as well as providing insights into the importance of predator-prey relationships for parasite transmission.
KeywordsTrophic transmission Tapeworm Zearaja nasuta 28s rDNA Acanthobothrium Echeneibothrium
The authors are grateful to Gavin Heineman (Captain of the Echo F/V) for collecting the skate specimens and to Olwyn Friesen, Brandon Ruehle and Bronwen Presswell for help with the skate dissections.
This work was financially supported by the Zoology Department and Ecology Degree Programme student budgets, University of Otago.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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