MEPS 520:85-99 (2015)  -  DOI:

The most vagile host as the main determinant of population connectivity in marine macroparasites

Marieke E. Feis1,2,7,*, David W. Thieltges1, Jeanine L. Olsen2, Xavier de Montaudouin3, K. Thomas Jensen4, Hocein Bazaïri5, Sarah C. Culloty6, Pieternella C. Luttikhuizen1

1NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
2Marine Benthic Ecology and Evolution Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 7, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands
3Station Marine d’Arcachon, UMR EPOC 5805 Université de Bordeaux CNRS, 2 rue du Pr Jolyet, 33120 Arcachon, France
4Aquatic Biology, Department of Bioscience, University of Aarhus, Ole Worms Allé 1, Bld. 1135, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
5Faculté des Sciences, Université Mohammed V, Avenue Ibn Battouta, BP 1014 RP, 10106 Rabat, Morocco
6School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Enterprise Centre, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland
7Present address: Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Wadden Sea Station Sylt, Hafenstraße 43, 25992 List, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Although molecular ecology of macroparasites is still in its infancy, general patterns are beginning to emerge, e.g. that the most vagile host in a complex life cycle is the main determinant of the population genetic structure of their parasites. This insight stems from the observation that populations of parasites with only freshwater hosts are more structured than those with terrestrial or airborne hosts. Until now, the same has not been tested for marine systems, where, in theory, a fully marine life cycle might sustain high dispersal rates because of the absence of obvious physical barriers in the sea. Here, we tested whether a marine trematode parasite that utilises migratory birds exhibited weaker population genetic structure than those whose life cycle utilises marine fish as the vagile host. Part of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase 1 (COI) gene was sequenced from individual sporocysts from populations along the Atlantic coast of Europe and North Africa. Strong population structure (Φst = 0.25, p < 0.0001) was found in the fully marine trematode Bucephalus minimus (hosted by fish), while no significant structure (Φst = 0.015, p = 0.19257) was detected in Gymnophallus choledochus (hosted by birds). However, demographic models indicate recent colonisation rather than high dispersal as an alternative explanation of the low levels of structure observed in G. choledochus. Our study is the first to identify significant genetic population structure in a marine autogenic parasite, suggesting that connectivity between populations of marine parasites can be limited despite the general potential for high dispersal of their hosts in the marine environment.

KEY WORDS: Marine ecology · Population genetics · Parasite · Host parasite dynamics · Trematode · Invertebrates · Gymnophallus choledochus · Bucephalus minimus

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Cite this article as: Feis ME, Thieltges DW, Olsen JL, de Montaudouin X and others (2015) The most vagile host as the main determinant of population connectivity in marine macroparasites. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 520:85-99.

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