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Richness and distribution of tropical oyster parasites in two oceans


Parasites can exert strong effects on population to ecosystem level processes, but data on parasites are limited for many global regions, especially tropical marine systems. Characterizing parasite diversity and distributions are the first steps towards understanding the potential impacts of parasites. The Panama Canal serves as an interesting location to examine tropical parasite diversity and distribution, as it is a conduit between two oceans and a hub for international trade. We examined metazoan and protistan parasites associated with ten oyster species collected from both Panamanian coasts, including the Panama Canal and Bocas del Toro. We found multiple metazoan taxa (pea crabs, Stylochus spp., Urastoma cyrinae). Our molecular screening for protistan parasites detected four species of Perkinsus (Perkinsus marinus, Perkinsus chesapeaki, Perkinsus olseni, Perkinsus beihaiensis) and several haplosporidians, including two genera (Minchinia, Haplosporidium). Species richness was higher for the protistan parasites than for the metazoans, with haplosporidian richness being higher than Perkinsus richness. Perkinsus species were the most frequently detected and most geographically widespread among parasite groups. Parasite richness and overlap differed between regions, locations and oyster hosts. These results have important implications for tropical parasite richness and the dispersal of parasites due to shipping associated with the Panama Canal.

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*Corresponding author: Marine Invasions Laboratory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland 21037, USA. E-mail:
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Current address: Grice Marine Lab, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA.

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