ABSTRACT

Members of the genus Sarcocystis are frequently found infecting members of the family Cervidae. Although Sarcocystis species are generally host specific for their intermediate hosts, species in cervids appear to be less host specific. Here, we report fallow deer (Dama dama) as a new host for Sarcocystis morae, originally described from the red deer (Cervus elaphus). Tongues of 69 legally hunted animals in Spain were tested for sarcocysts, and the species were characterized by light microscopy, ultrastructurally and molecularly. Sarcocysts were identified in 66.7% of D. dama. Sarcocysts had thin (<2 μm thick) cyst wall with hair-like villar protrusions bifurcated at their tips resembling type 8a. Genetic sequences obtained for 18S rRNA and COI reached 99.6–100% and 97.9–98.7% similarity, respectively, to those of S. morae from the red deer. The present study provides new data concerning lower level of host specificity within Sarcocystis genus for cervids.

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