ABSTRACT

The long-term fidelity of pinniped hosts to their natal rookery site suggests the genetic architecture of their Uncinaria spp. hookworms should be strongly structured by host breeding biology. However, historical events affecting host populations may also shape parasite genetic structure. Sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase 1 (COI) gene of 86 Uncinaria lucasi individuals were obtained to assess genetic variation and structure of nematodes from 2 host species (68 hookworms from northern fur seals; 18 hookworms from Steller sea lions) and rookeries from 3 widely separated geographic regions: the western Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk, eastern Bering Sea, and the eastern Pacific Ocean. High COI haplotype (h = 0.96–0.98) and nucleotide (π = 0.014) diversity was found. The haplotype network showed a star-shaped pattern with a large number of haplotypes separated by few substitutions. The network did not show separation of U. lucasi by geographic region or host species. Fst values between U. lucasi individuals representing geographic regions showed no differentiation, consistent with the absence of genetic structure. At face value, this lack of genetic structure in U. lucasi suggests high gene flow but could also be explained by recent (post-glacial) population expansions of northern fur seals and their hookworms.

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