Nematodes are common in the parasite communities of North American freshwater fishes, and the majority of them belong to 1 conventional order, Spirurida Chitwood, 1933. Within the Spirurida, the superfamilies Habronematoidea Chitwood and Wehr, 1932 and Thelazioidea Sobolev, 1949 have undergone considerable diversification. The dominant families of these 2 superfamilies, Cystidicolidae Skrjabin 1946 and Rhabdochonidae Railliet, 1916, respectively, are particularly common, widely distributed, and diverse, especially in North America, yet their phylogenetic relationships remain largely unexplored. In this study, we use near complete sequences of the 18S rRNA genes (SSU rDNA) from species in 6 genera (Capillospirura Skrjabin, 1924, Cystidicola Fischer, 1798, Salmonema Moravec, Santos and Brasil-Sato, 2008, Rhabdochona Railliet, 1916, Spinitectus Fourment, 1883, and a putative new cystidicolid in mooneyes, Hiodontidae), along with a species of Hedruris Nitzsch, 1812 from newts as a surrogate for the fish parasite Hedruris tiara VanCleave and Mueller, 1932, to explore their phylogenetic relationships. These sequences, together with available sequences from a range of other nematodes, including fish nematodes in other groups (Camallanoidea and ‘Seuratoidea'), were analyzed using Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood. The results from both analyses indicate, for the first time, support for the close relationships of the sturgeon parasite Capillospirura with Ascarophis van Beneden, 1871 and Cystidicola; the relationship of the cystidicolid from Hiodontidae with Salmonema of salmonid fishes; the monophyly of the 2 dominant spiruridan genera of fishes, Rhabdochona and Spinitectus; and for previous relationships among Nearctic Spinitectus spp. The results also indicate a closer relationship of Rhabdochona and Spinitectus than is suggested by their conventional classification and reject the monophyly of Habronematoidea, Thelazioidea, and Cystidicolidae. Hedruridae appears to be an early branching lineage of spirurins. Finally, the pattern of association between the fish parasites in this study and their hosts indicates, with few exceptions, ecologically driven diversification events involving host shifting not related to the phylogenetic relationships of their hosts.

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