Abstract

Ocular diplostomiasis is caused by trematode species in the family Diplostomidae, specifically those in the genera Austrodiplostomum, Diplostomum, and Tylodelphys. Diplostomid trematodes are globally distributed parasites of fish. Heavy infections of diplostomids that parasitize the eyes of fish can result in acute mortality while chronic infections are often characterized by impaired vision or blindness. In the southeastern United States, commercial catfish production is threatened by piscivorous birds and the many trematode species that parasitize them. The life cycles typically involve a piscivorous avian definitive host, a mollusk first intermediate host, and a fish second intermediate host. A survey of parasites infecting the snail host Biomphalaria havanensis (= B. obstructa) in catfish production ponds was undertaken. Snails were collected from 2 separate ponds during the summer of 2014 and observed for the release of trematode cercariae. A total of 1,740 snails were collected. Three distinct longifurcate pharyngeate cercariae were observed and these cercariae were characterized morphologically and molecularly. Sequencing of ∼4,200 base pairs (bp) of the nuclear ribosomal genes and ∼450 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase gene revealed 3 genetically distinct species. One morphotype shared 99–100% sequence identity with metacercariae from the aqueous and vitreous humors of gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum and channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus as well as an adult trematode, Austrodiplostomum ostrowskiae, a parasite of the double-crested cormorant Nannopterum auritus. The remaining 2 cercariae morphotypes shared 99–100% sequence identity with an unidentified Tylodelphys sp. and Austrodiplostomum sp. metacercaria from the brain and eyes of several freshwater fish. Herein we molecularly link the cercaria, metacercaria, and adult stage of the life cycle of A. ostrowskiae, identifying the snail host for this parasite, in addition to providing notes on 2 cercariae representing 2 other diplostomids.

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