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The Mediterranean Sea is recognized as a marine biodiversity hotspot. This enclosed basin is facing several anthropogenic-driven threats, such as seawater warming, pollution, overfishing, bycatch, intense maritime transport and invasion by alien species. The present review focuses on the diversity and ecology of specific marine trophically transmitted helminth endoparasites (TTHs) of the Mediterranean ecosystems, aiming to elucidate their potential effectiveness as ‘sentinels’ of anthropogenic disturbances in the marine environment. The chosen TTHs comprise cestodes and nematodes sharing complex life cycles, involving organisms from coastal and marine mid/upper-trophic levels as definitive hosts. Anthropogenic disturbances directly impacting the free-living stages of the parasites and their host population demographies can significantly alter the distribution, infection levels and intraspecific genetic variability of these TTHs. Estimating these parameters in TTHs can provide valuable information to assess the stability of marine trophic food webs. Changes in the distribution of particular TTHs species can also serve as indicators of sea temperature variations in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the bioaccumulation of pollutants. The contribution of the chosen TTHs to monitor anthropogenic-driven changes in the Mediterranean Sea, using their measurable attributes at both spatial and temporal scales, is proposed.
The distribution of parasites is shaped by a variety of factors, among which are the migratory movements of their hosts. Israel has a unique position to migratory routes of several bird species leaving Europe to winter in Africa, however, detailed studies on the parasite fauna of birds from this area are scarce. Our study investigates occurrence and distribution of sibling species among Contracaecum rudolphii complex in Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis from Italy and Israel, to acquire further information on the geographical range of these species to gain deeper knowledge on the ecology of these parasites and their bird host. A total of 2383 Contracaecum were collected from the gastric mucosa of 28 great cormorants (18 from Israel and 10 from Italy). A subsample was processed for morphological analyses in light and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and for molecular analyses through amplification and sequencing of the ITS rDNA and the cox2 mtDNA, and through PCR-RFLP. All the 683 Contracaecum subjected to molecular identification belonged to C. rudolphii s.l., (300 C. rudolphii A and 383 C. rudolphii B). SEM micrographs provided, for the first time, details of taxonomic structures in male specimens from both sibling species, and the first SEM characterization of C. rudolphii B. This work presents the first data on the occurrence of sibling species of C. rudolphii in Israel and provides additional information on the distribution of C. rudolphii A and B in Italy, confirming the high prevalence and intensity of infection observed in Ph. carbo sinensis from other Italian areas.
Dibothriocephalus latus is the most frequent causative agent of fish-borne zoonosis (diphyllobothriosis) in Europe, where it is currently circulating mainly in the Alpine lakes region (ALR) and Russia. Three mitochondrial genes (cox1, cob and nad3) and 6 microsatellite loci were analysed to determine how is the recently detected triploidy/parthenogenesis in tapeworms from ALR displayed at the DNA level. A geographically distant population from the Krasnoyarsk Reservoir in Russia (RU-KR) was analysed as a comparative population. One or 2 alleles of each microsatellite locus was detected in plerocercoids from RU-KR, corresponding to the microsatellite pattern of a diploid organism. In contrast, 1–3 alleles were observed in tapeworms from ALR, in accordance with their triploidy. The high diversity of mitochondrial haplotypes in D. latus from RU-KR implied an original and relatively stable population, but the identical structure of mitochondrial genes of tapeworms from ALR was probably a consequence of a bottleneck typical of introduced populations. These results indicated that the diploid/sexually reproducing population from RU-KR was ancestral, located within the centre of the distribution of the species, and the triploid/parthenogenetically reproducing subalpine population was at the margin of the distribution. The current study revealed the allelic structure of the microsatellite loci in the triploid tapeworm for the first time.
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