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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.
Post-mortem examination of a fin whale Balaenoptera physalus stranded in the Mediterranean Sea led to the finding of Bolbosoma balaenae for the first time in this basin. In this work, we describe new structural characteristics of this parasite using light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy approaches. Moreover, the molecular and phylogenetic data as inferred from both ribosomal RNA 18S-28S and the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase c subunit 1 (cox1) for adult specimens of B. balaenae are also reported for the first time. Details of the surface topography such as proboscis's hooks, trunked trunk spines of the prebulbar foretrunk, ultrastructure of proboscis's hooks and micropores of the tegument are shown. The 18S + 28S rRNA Bayesian tree (BI) as inferred from the phylogenetic analysis showed poorly resolved relationships among the species of Bolbosoma. In contrast, the combined 18S + 28S + mtDNA cox1 BI tree topology showed that the present sequences clustered with the species of Bolbosoma in a well-supported clade. The comparison of cox1 and 18S sequences revealed that the present specimens are conspecific with the cystacanths of B. balaenae previously collected in the euphausiid Nyctiphanes couchii from the North Eastern Atlantic Ocean. This study provided taxonomic, molecular and phylogenetic data that allow for a better characterization of this poor known parasite.
The species of Anisakis constitute one of the most widespread groups of ascaridoid nematodes in the marine ecosystem. Three closely related taxa are recognised in the A. simplex (s. l.) complex, i.e. A. pegreffii, A. simplex (s. s.) and A. berlandi. They are distributed in populations of their intermediate/paratenic (fish and squids) and definitive (cetaceans) hosts. A panel of seven microsatellite loci (Anisl 05784, Anisl 08059, Anisl 00875, Anisl 07132, Anisl 00314, Anisl 10535 and Anisl 00185), were developed and validated on a total of N = 943 specimens of A. pegreffii and A. simplex (s. s.), collected in fish and cetacean hosts from allopatric areas within the range of distribution of these parasite species. In addition, the locus Anisl 7, previously detected in those Anisakis spp., was investigated. The parasites were first identified by sequence analysis of the EF1 α-1 nDNA. The panel of the microsatellites loci here developed have allowed to: (i) detect diagnostic microsatellite loci between the two species; (ii) identify specimens of the two species A. pegreffii, A. simplex (s. s.) in a multi-marker nuclear genotyping approach; (iii) discover two sex-linked loci in both Anisakis species and (iv) estimate levels of genetic differentiation at both the inter- and intra-specific level.
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