Morphological and Molecular Characteristics of the Gastro-Intestinal Nematode Parasite Ascaridia columbae Infecting the Domestic Pigeon Columba livia domestica in Saudi Arabia



Parasitism is a complex problem that is often ignored in companion animals, including birds, unless it develops into a severe clinical disorder. The present study was, therefore, aimed to investigate the presence of the gastrointestinal nematode infecting the domestic pigeon and provide a complete morphological description and clarify its taxonomic position through phylogenetic analysis of the ITS1-5.8s-ITS2 rDNA gene region.

Materials and Methods

During the current study, a total of twenty-six domestic pigeons, Columba livia domestica, were collected and internal organs examined for helminth detection. Using light and scanning electron microscopy, the recovered parasite species are studied. In addition, the selected gene region was obtained and sequenced using appropriate primers that aid in the formation of the phylogenetic dendrogram for the recovered parasite species with others retrieved from GenBank.


Morphological examination showed that this nematode parasite belongs to the Ascaridiidae family within the genus Ascaridia. The material was assigned to the previously described Ascaridia columbae by providing all the characteristic features as the presence of a mouth opening surrounded by three tri-lobed lips; each lip has two triangular teeth with a spoon-like structure, cephalic papillae and amphidal pores on lips surface, presence of lateral cuticular alae and pre-cloacal sucker, 10 pairs of caudal papillae, and two equal spicules in male worms. The morphological investigations of this species were supplemented by molecular analysis of ITS1-5.8s-ITS2 rDNA gene region. The data showed that the present A. coulmbae is deeply embedded in the Ascaridia genus with a 74–99% sequence similarity to other species in the Chromadorea class. Ascaridiidae appears as monophyly and represented as a sister group to Heterakidae. The ascaridiid species examined belong to the Ascaridia genus and displaced a close relationship with the previously described A. coulmbae (gb| KF147909.1, gb| AJ001509.1, gb| KC905082.1, gb| JQ995321.1, gb| JX624729.1) as putative sister taxa.


The present study revealed that the species Ascaridia is the first account of this genus as an endoparasite from the domestic pigeon inhabiting Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the combination of morphological and molecular studies helps to identify this species correctly and identified as Ascaridia columbae.

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This study was supported by Researchers Supporting Project number (RSP-2019/25), King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Author information




SAQ and RA-G participated in design, RA-G and KA carried out the laboratory work. RA-G, MAD, and KA participated in the interpretation of the results and the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rewaida Abdel-Gaber.

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Al Quraishy, S., Abdel-Gaber, R., Dkhil, M.A. et al. Morphological and Molecular Characteristics of the Gastro-Intestinal Nematode Parasite Ascaridia columbae Infecting the Domestic Pigeon Columba livia domestica in Saudi Arabia. Acta Parasit. 65, 208–224 (2020).

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  • Columba livia
  • Ascaridiidae
  • Ascaridia spp.
  • Morphology
  • Molecular analysis