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Muscular sarcocystosis in two arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) due to Sarcocystis arctica n. sp.: sarcocyst morphology, molecular characteristics and phylogeny

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The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is a critically endangered species in Norway, and therefore, the small population is closely monitored, and most foxes found dead are subjected to necropsy. In two deceased foxes, thin-walled muscular sarcocysts were first detected in histological sections, and numerous sarcocysts were later found in frozen and thawed muscle samples from Fox 1. These sarcocysts measured 1–12 × 0.1–0.25 mm and had closely spaced, short, knob-like protrusions, giving the cysts a serrated outline. Genomic DNA was extracted from eight isolated sarcocysts (Fox 1) and two muscle samples (Fox 2) and subjected to polymerase chain reaction amplification at four loci: the nuclear 18S and 28S ribosomal RNA genes and internal transcribed spacer 1 region and the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene (cox1). Both foxes were infected by the same Sarcocystis sp., which displayed little or no genetic variation at the three nuclear loci (99.9–100 % identity) and slightly more variation at cox1 (99.4–100 % identity). Sequence comparisons and phylogenetic analyses revealed that this species was distinct from other named Sarcocystis spp. but was closely related to various species using avian intermediate hosts and possibly identical to an unnamed species reported from two American dogs. The species described from the two arctic foxes was named Sarcocystis arctica n. sp.

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This study was made possible by the ongoing national monitoring programme for the arctic fox in Norway led by Nina E. Eide, at NINA, Trondheim, and the substantial efforts of Eide and many other persons involved in surveying and collecting material from the Norwegian arctic fox population.

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Correspondence to Bjørn Gjerde.

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Gjerde, B., Schulze, J. Muscular sarcocystosis in two arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) due to Sarcocystis arctica n. sp.: sarcocyst morphology, molecular characteristics and phylogeny. Parasitol Res 113, 811–821 (2014).

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