Parasite fauna of Antarctic Macrourus whitsoni (Gadiformes: Macrouridae) in comparison with closely related macrourids

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Abstract

Background: The extreme, isolated environment within the Antarctic Convergence has fuelled the evolution of a highly endemic fauna with unique adaptations. One species known from this area is the Whitson's grenadier Macrourus whitsoni (Regan, 1913). While closely related species occurring in the Northern Hemisphere were targets of a variety of studies, knowledge on M. whitsoni is scarce, including not only its ecology but also its parasite fauna. Parasites, an often overlooked but important component of every ecosystem, can provide important insights into host ecology, including feeding habits, food web interactions and distribution patterns. The aim of our study was to increase the currently limited knowledge on the ecology of M. whitsoni and its parasite life-cycles. Methods: In this study, parasite fauna and stomach content of 50 specimens of M. whitsoni were sampled off Elephant and King George Islands. Fish samples were morphological, food ecological and parasitological examined and parasites morphological and partly molecular identified. To evaluate the findings, results were compared with other macrourid species. Results: The parasite fauna of M. whitsoni revealed 9 genera and 17 species. Stomach content analysis indicated Amphipoda and Mysida as the primary food source. Considering the parasites of M. whitsoni, the highest diversity was found within the Digenea, while prevalence was highest for the Acanthocephala and Nematoda. The diverse parasite fauna of M. whitsoni together with the stomach content analysis, suggests a benthopelagic mode of life. Furthermore, an extensive evaluation of the parasite fauna of species of the Macrourinae was conducted, which is probably the most thorough one yet, to compare the findings with closely related host fish species. A similarity analysis revealed a strong connection between the parasite fauna composition and geographical distribution, with a clear separation between the parasite faunas in fishes sampled in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. Conclusions: Due to the isolated habitat within the Antarctic Conversion, the parasite fauna of M. whitsoni differs clearly from those of closely related and closely occurring species of the genus Macrourus. Our study revealed an endemically dominated parasite fauna, with parasites often host-specific to M. whitsoni. The comparison with the faunas of other species of the Macrourinae revealed a largely endemic parasite fauna, which emphasizes again the isolated character of the Antarctic shelf regions.

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Münster, J., Kochmann, J., Klimpel, S., Klapper, R., & Kuhn, T. (2016). Parasite fauna of Antarctic Macrourus whitsoni (Gadiformes: Macrouridae) in comparison with closely related macrourids. Parasites and Vectors, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-016-1688-x

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