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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.
The genus Clinostomoides Dollfus, 1950 was erected to accommodate a single worm from Ardea goliath sampled in the Belgian Congo. The specimen was distinguished from other clinostomids by its large size and posterior genitalia. In the following years, metacercariae of Clinostomoides brieni, have been described in Clarias spp. in southern and western Africa. A few authors have referred to Clinostomum brieni, but all such usages appear to be lapsus calami, and the validity of Clinostomoides remains widely accepted. In this study our aim was: position C. brieni among the growing clinostomids molecular database, and redescribe the species with emphasis on characters that have emerged as important in recent work. We sequenced two nuclear (partial 18S and ITS) and one mitochondrial marker (partial cytochrome c oxidase I) and studied morphology in metacercariae from hosts and localities likely to harbour the type species (Clarias spp., Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa). Phylogenetic analysis shows C. brieni belongs within Clinostomum Leidy, 1856. We therefore transfer C. brieni to Clinostomum, amend the diagnosis for the genus Clinostomum and provide a critical analysis of other species in Clinostomoides, all of which we consider species inquirendae, as they rest on comparisons of different developmental stages.
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