ESR prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00863

Parasite component community of smalltooth sawfish off Florida: diversity, conservation concerns, and research applications

Micah D. Bakenhaster*, Stephen A. Bullard, Stephen S. Curran, Delane C. Kritsky, Erin H. Leone, Lauren K. Partridge, Carlos F. Ruiz, Rachel M. Scharer, Gregg R. Poulakis

*Email: micah.bakenhaster@myfwc.com

ABSTRACT: Compared with that of other charismatic elasmobranchs, the component community of metazoan parasites infecting endangered smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata is exceedingly poorly characterized: adults of Dermophthirioides pristidis and Neoheterocotyle inpristi (ectoparasitic flatworms of skin and gill, respectively) were the only confirmed parasites prior to the description, based on specimens reported herein, of Mycteronastes caalusi. Herein, opportune and directed parasitological examinations of 290 smalltooth sawfish (277 live inspections; 13 necropsies; 671–2640 mm stretch total length) in southwest Florida coastal waters revealed at least 7 species of Platyhelminthes, 9 of Arthropoda, 4 of Annelida, and 1 of Nematoda. This collection includes representatives of an undescribed species of Aporocotylidae [Digenea]) and myriad new host records, considerably updating and advancing our understanding of smalltooth sawfish symbionts. We also confirmed that D. pristidis and N. inpristi are extant and propose D. pristidis as a reliable biological tag. Some of these parasites evidently are highly host-specific and so vulnerable to extinction.