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Host and ecology both play a role in shaping distribution of digenean parasites of New Zealand whelks (Gastropoda: Buccinidae: Cominella)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2016

Department of Zoology, Allan Wilson Centre, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Department of Zoology, Allan Wilson Centre, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
*Corresponding author: Department of Zoology, Allan Wilson Centre, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. Tel: 00 64 3 479 5096. Fax: 00 64 3 479 7584. E-mail:


Digenean parasites infecting four Cominella whelk species (C. glandiformis, C. adspersa, C. maculosa and C. virgata), which inhabit New Zealand's intertidal zone, were analysed using molecular techniques. Mitochondrial 16S and cytochrome oxidase 1 (COI) and nuclear rDNA ITS1 sequences were used to infer phylogenetic relationships amongst digenea. Host species were parasitized by a diverse range of digenea (Platyhelminthes, Trematoda), representing seven families: Echinostomatidae, Opecoelidae, Microphallidae, Strigeidae and three, as yet, undetermined families A, B and C. Each parasite family infected between one and three host whelk species, and infection levels were typically low (average infection rates ranged from 1·4 to 3·6%). Host specificity ranged from highly species-specific amongst the echinostomes, which were only ever observed infecting C. glandiformis, to the more generalist opecoelids and strigeids, which were capable of infecting three out of four of the Cominella species analysed. Digeneans displayed a highly variable geographic range; for example, echinostomes had a large geographic range stretching the length of New Zealand, from Northland to Otago, whereas Family B parasites were restricted to fairly small areas of the North Island. Our results add to a growing body of research identifying wide ranges in both host specificity and geographic range amongst intertidal, multi-host parasite systems.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Nucleotide sequence data reported in this paper are available in the GenBank, EMBL and DDBJ databases under accession numbers KU525036-KU525077, KU695753-KU695802 and KU748678-748725.


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Host and ecology both play a role in shaping distribution of digenean parasites of New Zealand whelks (Gastropoda: Buccinidae: Cominella)
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Host and ecology both play a role in shaping distribution of digenean parasites of New Zealand whelks (Gastropoda: Buccinidae: Cominella)
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