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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)...

Abstract

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.

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Journal of Helminthology
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