Abstract

The phylogenetic relationships of Cucullanidae were explored using near-complete sequences of the 18S rDNA (rRNA gene). Sequences (1,750–1,760 bp) were obtained from 7 species of Cucullanidae belonging to 3 genera, Cucullanus (2 spp.), Dichelyne (2 spp.), Truttaedacnitis (3 spp.), and 1 species of Quimperiidae (Paraseuratum sp.). These sequences were aligned with those of 128 other nematode species available in GenBank, including 3 other cucullanids (Dichelyne mexicanus, Cucullanus robustus, and Cucullanus baylisi) and 2 non-cucullanid seuratoids (Paraquimperia africana, and Linstowinema sp.). Bayesian (BPP) and maximum likelihood (ML) analyses of 2 different datasets strongly supported a monophyletic Cucullanidae. Bayesian analysis placed this family as the sister group to a clade containing species of Diplogasterida, Strongylida, Rhabditida, and Tylenchida with very strong support. Neither BPP nor ML analyses recovered a close relationship of Cucullanidae to Ascaridida. None of the 3 non-cucullanid seuratoid species were sister to Cucullanidae, nor did they form a monophyletic group of their own, which questions the monophyly of Seuratoidea and the relationships among species within this superfamily. The 3 genera of cucullanids were also not monophyletic, although morphologically similar species such as the 2 species of Cucullanus from Neotropical catfishes and 2 species of Dichelyne from Nearctic ictalurid catfishes were sister taxa with strong support. The results were ambiguous with respect to the relationship of 2 Truttaedacnitis spp. in Nearctic freshwater fishes but do not support Truttaedacnitis heterodonti, a parasite of heterodontid sharks, as belonging to this genus. The study shows that all aspects of the conventional classification of Seuratoidea and its taxa should be scrutinized by even more extensive sampling across hosts and habitats.

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