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International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Volume 17, 2022, Pages 161-165

Genetic characterisation of Echinocephalus spp. (Nematoda: Gnathostomatidae) from marine hosts in Australia

Christina Karagiorgisa, Richard J. Ploega, Abdul Ghafara

Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Melbourne Veterinary School, University of Melbourne, Werribee, Victoria, Australia.


We genetically characterised larval and adult specimens of species of Echinocephalus Molin, 1858 (Gnathostomatidae) collected from various hosts found within Australian waters. Adult specimens of Echinocephalus were collected from a dasyatid stingray [Pastinachus ater (Macleay); n = 2] from Moreton Bay, Queensland and larvae from a hydrophiine sea snake [Hydrophis peronii (Duméril); n = 3] from Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, from an octopus (Octopus djinda Amor & Hart; n = 3) from Fremantle, Western Australia and from a lucinid bivalve [Codakia paytenorum (Iredale); n = 5] from Heron Island, Queensland Australia. All nematode samples were identified morphologically and genetically characterised using the small subunit nuclear ribosomal DNA (SSU). Some morphological differences were identified between previous studies of Echinocephalus spp. and those observed herein but the significance of these differences remains unresolved. Molecular phylogenetic analyses revealed that larval Echinocephalus sp. from H. peronii and C. paytenorum in Australia were very similar (with strong nodal support) to larval Echinocephalus sp. infecting two fish species from Egypt, Saurida undosquamis (Richardson) (Synodontidae) and Pagrus pagrus (Linnaeus) (Sparidae). The SSU sequences of larval Echinocephalus sp. from O. djinda and adults from P. ater formed a well-supported clade with that of adult E. overstreeti Deardorff and Ko, 1983 from the Port Jackson shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni (Meyer), as well as that of the larval Echinocephalus sp., from the common carp (Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus) from Egypt. This study extends the intermediate host range of Echinocephalus larvae by including a sea snake for the first time. Findings of this study highlight the importance of genetic characterisation of larval and adult specimens of Echinocephalus spp. to resolve the current difficulties in the taxonomy of this genus.

Keywords: Parasitic nematode, Gnathostomatidae, Echinocephalus overstreeti, Sea snake, Australia.

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