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Host-parasite association of Placobdella costata (Glossiphoniidae: Hirudinea) and Mauremys leprosa (Geoemydidae: Testudinoidea) in aquatic ecosystems of Morocco

Abstract

Emys orbicularis (Linnaeus, 1758) was considered as a specific host of Placobdella costata (Fr. Mûller, 1846). However, since the parasite was recorded from outside the distribution area of its host, some authors suggested a possible relationship with other hosts. Although two accidental associations were found with another turtle, Mauremys leprosa (Schweigger, 1812), the obtained data remain insufficient to better understand this discovered host-parasite ecological system. In this context, the present study was carried out to evaluate the relationship between the Mediterranean pond turtle, M. leprosa, and the freshwater rhynchobdellid leech, P. costata (Hirudinida: Glossiphoniidae), in aquatic ecosystems of Morocco. During the period from April to June 2018, we found leeches attached to turtles in five out of 30 populations sampled with a prevalence of infection significantly higher in adult than that in juvenile turtles. Moreover, the males are the most infested with 51% of the total, followed by females (33.3%) and juveniles (15.7%). The obtained results indicated that 51 turtles were infested by 139 leeches with a mean intensity of infestation of 4.17 ± 0.47 leeches/turtle (up to 10 leeches/turtle). It was higher in males than that in females in almost all sites. The posterior limbs are the most preferred attachment site, and the body condition of turtles was not affected by the intensity of infestation but it is rather a function of altitude. Our findings proved that M. leprosa-P. costata association is more than accidental and that M. leprosa is rather the main host of P. costata in aquatic ecosystems of Morocco.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the “Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertication (HCEFLCD)” for the permit to work on the field.

Funding

Financial support was provided to E-M. Laghzaoui by Hassan II Academy of Sciences and Technology Project [ICGVSA]. This research was partially funded by the Hubert Curien Programme; PHC Maghreb N°19MAG50 / 41431WD.

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Conceptualization: El-Mustapha Laghzaoui and El Hassan El Mouden; funding acquisition: El-Mustapha Laghzaoui and El Hassan El Mouden; fieldwork: El-Mustapha Laghzaoui, El Hassan El Mouden, and Aziz Abbad; data analysis: El-Mustapha Laghzaoui. The first draft of the manuscript was written by El Mustapha Laghzaoui, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The present work is a part of E. Laghzaoui’s thesis.

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Correspondence to El Hassan El Mouden.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. After rapid measurements (less than 5 mn), turtles were released immediately at their site of capture.

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Laghzaoui, EM., Abbad, A. & El Mouden, E. Host-parasite association of Placobdella costata (Glossiphoniidae: Hirudinea) and Mauremys leprosa (Geoemydidae: Testudinoidea) in aquatic ecosystems of Morocco. Parasitol Res 119, 3459–3467 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-020-06809-x

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Keywords

  • Mauremys leprosa
  • Placobdella costata
  • Body condition
  • Prevalence
  • Infestation
  • Ectoparasite