Abstract

In the blood fluke family Schistosomatidae, marine snails are well known as intermediate hosts. Eight families of marine snails have thus far been reported to host schistosomes across the world, most of which have been implicated in human cercarial dermatitis (HCD) outbreaks. As part of our larger effort to define the species diversity and biology of schistosomes in Argentina, in particular their role in causing HCD, we searched in the marine pulmonate snail (Siphonaria lessoni) for a schistosome species described previously from S. lessoni from southern Argentina. Additionally, gulls (Larus dominicanus) collected from a different project locality (inland) were examined, because they are known to spend time in the intertidal regions. Schistosome sporocysts were found in S. lessoni, and a small worm fragment was retrieved from a gull. Molecular phylogenies for 28S, ITS1-5.8S-ITS2, and cox1 genes revealed that the specimens from the gull and S. lessoni grouped closely together, suggesting they are conspecifics. Also, ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 sequences suggested one of the schistosomes from S. lessoni and a schistosome from a South African penguin were also conspecifics. Further study is needed to verify if these specimens comprise a distinct marine clade within the larger avian schistosome clade that is comprised mostly of species using freshwater snail hosts. Thus far, it appears this group of marine schistosomes may be more likely found in the southern hemisphere. It is unclear if the observed distribution pattern of schistosomes in Siphonaria is a result of sampling bias and/or indicative of a specific bird–snail–schistosome association. It is clear they are sharply differentiated from the basal marine clade of avian schistosomes that includes Austrobilharzia.

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