Phylogenetic Affinities and Infection Patterns of Goussia Infecting Sardina pilchardus from the NE Atlantic



European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus) is a highly valued fish in many European countries, particularly in Portugal. Despite current stock declines and the threats coccidia pose to European pilchards (e.g. castration), little is known about coccidian parasites infecting pilchards captured off the Portuguese coast.


In this study, we analyzed the infection patterns, the morphology of oocysts and the phylogenetic relations of coccidian parasites from European pilchard captured in Northern Portugal.


Only Goussia oocysts were detected in infected tissues and prevalence of infection was 64% (n = 61). Oocysts were detected primarily in the liver with fewer infections in the stomach, intestine and gonads. No differences were found in the prevalence between seasons. Phylogenetic analysis showed these parasites are closely related to Goussia clupearum, placing them within a recently described group of Goussia, the clupearum type.


Our study provides more data on Goussia from the clupearum type with phylogenetic analysis indicating that these parasites cluster according to fish host taxonomy, thus suggesting some degree of co-evolution.

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Availability of Data and Materials

All sequences generated in this work are deposited in GenBank (accession numbers MW006822-MW006829).

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This research was partially supported by national funds through FCT-Foundation for Science and Technology within the scope of UIDB/04423/2020 and UIDP/04423/2020; by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the COMPETE program and national funds through FCT-Foundation for Science and Technology (project PTDC/BIA-MIC/27995/2017 POCI-01-0145-FEDER-027995); and the Programa Operacional Potencial Humano—Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional funds from the European Social Fund and Portuguese Ministério da Educação e Ciência (RX: IF/00359/2015; AP doctoral grant: SFRH/BD/144928/2019).

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Correspondence to Raquel Xavier or Aurélia Saraiva.

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Xavier, R., Barroso, R., Cardoso, J. et al. Phylogenetic Affinities and Infection Patterns of Goussia Infecting Sardina pilchardus from the NE Atlantic. Acta Parasit. (2021).

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  • Goussia
  • 18S rRNA
  • Phylogeny
  • Morphology
  • Prevalence