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An updated look at the uneven distribution of cryptic diversity among parasitic helminths

  • G. Pérez-Ponce de León (a1) and R. Poulin (a2)


Cryptic parasite diversity is a major issue for taxonomy and systematics, and for attempts to control diseases of humans, domestic animals and wildlife. Here, we re-examine an earlier report that, after correcting for sampling effort, more cryptic species of trematodes are found per published study than for other helminth taxa. We performed a meta-analysis of 110 studies that used DNA sequences to search for cryptic species in parasitic helminth taxa. After correcting for study effort and accounting for the biogeographical region of origins, we found that more cryptic species tend to be uncovered among trematodes, and fewer among cestodes and animal-parasitic nematodes, than in other helminth groups. However, this pattern was only apparent when we included only studies using nuclear markers in the analysis; it was not seen in a separate analysis based only on mitochondrial markers. We propose that the greater occurrence of cryptic diversity among trematodes may be due to some of their unique features, such as their mode of reproduction or frequent lack of hard morphological structures, or to the way in which trematode species are described. Whatever the reason, the high frequency of cryptic species among trematodes has huge implications for estimates of parasite diversity and for future taxonomic research.


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Pérez-Ponce de León and Poulin supplementary material
Pérez-Ponce de León and Poulin supplementary material 1

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