Skip to main content Accessibility help

Assessing host–parasite specificity through coprological analysis: a case study with species of Corynosoma (Acanthocephala: Polymorphidae) from marine mammals

  • F.J. Aznar (a1), J. Hernández-Orts (a1), A.A. Suárez (a2), M. García-Varela (a3), J.A. Raga (a1) and H.L. Cappozzo (a2)...


In this paper we report an investigation of the utility of coprological analysis as an alternative technique to study parasite specificity whenever host sampling is problematic; acanthocephalans from marine mammals were used as a model. A total of 252 scats from the South American sea lion, Otaria flavescens, and rectal faeces from 43 franciscanas, Pontoporia blainvillei, from Buenos Aires Province, were examined for acanthocephalans. Specimens of two species, i.e. Corynosoma australe and C. cetaceum, were collected from both host species. In sea lions, 78 out of 145 (37.9%) females of C. australe were gravid and the sex ratio was strongly female-biased. However, none of the 168 females of C. cetaceum collected was gravid and the sex ratio was not female-biased. Conversely, in franciscanas, 14 out of 17 (82.4%) females of C. cetaceum were gravid, but none of 139 females of C. australe was, and the sex ratio of C. cetaceum, but not that of C. australe, was female-biased. In putative non-hosts, the size of worms was similar to that from specimens collected from prey. Results suggest that both acanthocephalans contact sea lions and franciscanas regularly. However, C. australe and C. cetaceum cannot apparently reproduce, nor even grow, in franciscanas and sea lions, respectively. Coprological analysis may represent a useful supplementary method to investigate parasite specificity, particularly when host carcasses are difficult to obtain.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Andrade, A., Pinedo, M.C. & Pereira, J. (1997) Gastrointestinal helminths of the franciscana, Pontoporia blainvillei, in southern Brazil. Reports of the International Whaling Commission 47, 669673.
Aznar, F.J., Balbuena, J.A. & Raga, J.A. (1994) Helminth communities of Pontoporia blainvillei (Cetacea: Pontoporiidae) in Argentinian waters. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72, 702706.
Aznar, F.J., Bush, A.O. & Raga, J.A. (1999) Polymorphus arctocephali Smales, 1986 a synonym of Corynosoma cetaceum Johnston & Best, 1942 (Acanthocephala: Polymorphidae). Systematic Parasitology 44, 5970.
Aznar, F.J., Bush, A.O., Balbuena, J.A. & Raga, J.A. (2001) Corynosoma cetaceum in the stomach of franciscanas, Pontoporia blainvillei (Cetacea): an exceptional case of habitat selection by an acanthocephalan. Journal of Parasitology 87, 536541.
Aznar, F.J., Berón-Vera, B., Crespo, E.A. & Raga, J.A. (2002) Presence of genital spines in a male Corynosoma cetaceum Johnston and Best, 1942 (Acanthocephala). Journal of Parasitology 88, 403404.
Aznar, F.J., Cappozzo, H.L., Taddeo, D., Montero, F.E. & Raga, J.A. (2004) Recruitment, population structure, and habitat selection of Corynosoma australe (Acanthocephala) in South American fur seals, Arctocephalus australis, from Uruguay. Canadian Journal of Zoology 82, 301305.
Aznar, F.J., Pérez Ponce de Leon, G. & Raga, J.A. (2006) Status of Corynosoma (Acanthocephala: Polymorphidae) based on anatomical, ecological and phylogenetic evidence, with the erection of Pseudocorynosoma n. gen. Journal of Parasitology 92, 548564.
Berón-Vera, B., Crespo, E.A., Raga, J.A. & Fernández, M. (2007) Parasites of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) from northern Patagonia, Argentina: the relation with host distribution and diet and comparison with sympatric hosts. Journal of Parasitology 93, 11551159.
Berón-Vera, B., Crespo, E.A. & Raga, J.A. (2008) Parasites in stranded cetaceans of Patagonia. Journal of Parasitology 94, 946948.
Brooks, D.R. & McLennan, D. (1993) Parascript: parasites and the language of evolution. 429 pp. Washington, DC, Smithsonian Institution Press.
Brownell, R.L. (1975) Progress report on the biology of the franciscana dolphin, Pontoporia blainvillei, in Uruguayan waters. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 32, 10731078.
Bush, A.O., Lafferty, K.D., Lotz, J.M. & Shostak, A.W. (1997) Parasitology meets ecology on its own terms: Margolis et al. revisited. Journal of Parasitology 83, 575583.
Combes, C. (2001) Parasitism: The ecology and evolution of intimate interactions. 728 pp. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Corcuera, J., Monzón, F., Aguilar, A., Borrell, A. & Raga, J.A. (1995) Life history data, organochlorine pollutants and parasites from eight Burmeisteir's porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis, caught in northern Argentine waters. Reports of the International Whaling Commission 16, 365372.
Crompton, D.W.T. (1985) Reproduction. pp. 213271in Crompton, D.W.T. & Nickol, B.B. (Eds) Biology of the Acanthocephala. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.
Dans, S.L., Reyes, L.M., Pedraza, S.N., Raga, J.A. & Crespo, E.A. (1999) Gastrointestinal helminths of the dusky dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obscurus, off Patagonian coasts, in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Marine Mammal Science 15, 649660.
Delyamure, S.L. & Parukhin, A.M. (1968) A new parasite of the South African fur seal. Biologija Morja Akademii Nauk Ukrajinskoj C.C.R. 14, 2534(in Russian).
Dunshea, G. (2009) DNA-based diet analysis for any predator. PLoS ONE 4, e5252.
Efron, B. & Tibshirani, R. (1993) An introduction to the Bootstrap. London, UK, Chapman and Hall.
Figueroa, L. & Puga, S. (1990) Corynosoma cetaceum Johnston y Best, 1942 (Acanthocephala) en el delfín chileno, Cephalorhynchus eutropia Gray, 1846 (Cetacea: Delphinidae). Boletín Chileno de Parasitología 45, 9395.
García-Varela, M., Aznar, F.J., Pérez-Ponce de León, G., Piñero, D. & Laclette, J.P. (2005) Molecular phylogeny of Corynosoma Lühe, 1904 (Acanthocephala), based on 5.8S and internal transcribed spacer sequences. Journal of Parasitology 91, 345352.
George-Nascimento, M. & Marín, S. (1992) Efecto de dos especies hospedadoras, el lobo fino austral Arctocephalus australis (Zimmerman) y el lobo marino común Otaria byronia (Blainville) (Carnivora; Otariidae), sobre la morfología y la fecundidad de Corynosoma sp. (Acanthocephala; Polymorphidae). Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 65, 183193.
Hoberg, E.P. & Ryan, P.G. (1989) Ecology of helminth parasitism in Puffinus gravis (Procellariiformes) on the breeding grounds at Gough Island. Canadian Journal of Zoology 67, 220225.
Johnston, T.H. (1937) Entozoa from the Australian hair seal. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 62, 916.
Johnston, T.H. & Best, E.W. (1942) Australian Acanthocephala No 3. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 66, 250254.
Johnston, T.H. & Edmonds, S.J. (1953) Acanthocephala from Auckland and Campbell Islands. Records of the Dominion Museum of New Zealand 2, 5561.
Kagei, N., Tobayama, T. & Nagasaki, Y. (1976) On the helminthum of franciscana, Pontoporia blainvillei. Scientific Reports of the Whale Research Institute 28, 161166.
Kuris, A.M., Goddard, J.H.R., Torchin, M.E., Murphy, N., Gurney, R. & Lafferty, K.D. (2007) An experimental evaluation of host specificity: the role of encounter and compatibility filters for a rhizocephalan parasite of crabs. International Journal for Parasitology 37, 539545.
Lanfranchi, A.L., Rossin, M.A. & Timi, J.T. (2009) Parasite infracommunities of a specialised marine fish species in a compound community dominated by generalist parasites. Journal of Helminthology 83, 373378.
Mateu, P., Raga, J.A. & Aznar, F.J. (2011) Host specificity of Oschmarinella rochebruni and Brachycladium atlanticum (Digenea: Brachycladiidae) in five cetacean species from western Mediterranean waters. Journal of Helminthology 85, 1219.
Morgades, D., Katz, H.M., Castro, O., Capellino, D., Casas, L., Benitez, G., Venzal, J.M. & Moraña, A. (2006) Fauna parasitaria del lobo fino Arctocephalus australis y del león marino Otaria flavescens (Mammalia, Otariidae) en la costa uruguaya. pp. 8996in Rodríguez-Gallego, M.R., Scarabino, L. & Conde, D. (Eds) Bases para la conservación y el manejo de la costa uruguaya. Uruguay, Ed. Fundación Vida Silvestre.
Morini, E.G. & Boero, J.J. (1960) Corynosoma otariae n. sp. (Acanthocephala; Polymorphidae) parásito de un lobo marino (Otaria flavescens). Actas y Trabajos del Primer Congreso Sudamericano de Zoología II, 229234.
Obendorf, D.L. & Presidente, P.J.A. (1978) Foreign body perforation of the esophagus initiating traumatic pericarditis in an Australian fur seal. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 14, 451454.
Poulin, R. (2006) Evolutionary ecology of parasites. 2nd edn.342 pp. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press.
Reiczigel, J. (2003) Confidence intervals for the binomial parameter: some new considerations. Statistics in Medicine 22, 611621.
Reiczigel, J. & Rózsa, L. (2005) Quantitative Parasitology 3.0. Budapest. Distributed by the authors. Available at: (accessed 7 April 2011).
Rodríguez, D., Rivero, L. & Bastida, R. (2002) Feeding ecology of the franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) in marine and estuarine waters of Argentina. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 1, 7794.
Rósza, L., Reiczigel, J. & Majoros, G. (2000) Quantifying parasites in samples of host. Journal of Parasitology 86, 228232.
Sardella, N.H., Mattiucci, S., Timi, J.T., Bastida, R.O., Rodriguez, R.H. & Nascetti, G. (2005) Corynosoma australe Johnston, 1937 and C. cetaceum Johnston & Best, 1942 (Acanthocephala: Polymorphidae) from marine mammals and fishes in Argentinian waters: allozyme markers and taxonomic status. Systematic Parasitology 61, 143156.
Shaughnessy, P.D. & Ross, G.J.B. (1980) Records of the Subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) from South Africa with notes on its biology and some observations of captive animals. Annals of the South African Museum 82, 7189.
Smales, L.R. (1986) Polymorphidae (Acanthocephala) from Australian mammals with description of two new species. Systematic Parasitology 8, 91100.
Smith, S.C. & Whitehead, H. (2000) The diet of Galápagos sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus as indicated by fecal sample analysis. Marine Mammal Science 16, 23152325.
Stewardson, C.L. & Fourie, H.J. (1998) Endoparasites of the cape fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus from the eastern Cape Coast of South Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 53, 3351.
Suárez, A.A., Sanfelice, D., Cassini, M.H. & Cappozzo, H.L. (2005) Composition and seasonal variation in the diet of the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) from Quequén, Argentina. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 4, 163174.
Tanzola, R.D., Guagliardo, S.E., Brizzola, S.M. & Arias, M.V. (1997) Helminth fauna of Porichthys porosissimus (Pisces: Batrachoidiformes) in the estuary of Bahia Blanca Argentina. Helminthologia 34, 221227.
Timi, J.T., Luque, J.L. & Sardella, N.H. (2005) Parasites of Cynoscion guatucupa along South American Atlantic coasts: evidence for stock discrimination. Journal of Fish Biology 67, 16031618.
Timi, J.T., Lanfranchi, A.L. & Etchegoin, J.A. (2009) Seasonal stability and spatial variability of parasites in Brazilian sandperch Pinguipes brasilianus from the Northern Argentine Sea: evidence for stock discrimination. Journal of Fish Biology 74, 12061225.
Torres, J., Pérez, M.J., Segovia, J.M. & Miquel, J. (2001) Utilidad de la coprología parasitaria en la detección de helmintos parásitos en los cánidos silvestres Ibéricos. Galemys 13, 7583.
Torres, P., Oporto, J.A., Brieva, L.M. & Escare, L. (1992) Gastrointestinal helminths of the cetaceans Phocoena spinipinnis (Burmeister, 1865) and Cephalorhynchus eutropia (Gray, 1846) from the southern coast of Chile. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 28, 313315.
Valtonen, E.T., Helle, E. & Poulin, R. (2004) Stability of Corynosoma populations with fluctuating population densities of the seal definitive host. Parasitology 129, 635642.
Zdzitowiecki, K. (1986) Acanthocephala of the Antarctic. Polish Polar Research 7, 79117.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Helminthology
  • ISSN: 0022-149X
  • EISSN: 1475-2697
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-helminthology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed