ABSTRACT

Sea turtles are difficult to sample because of their protected status; however, museum collections and sea turtle stranding networks provide unique opportunities for parasitological research. Four gastrointestinal tracts from stranded, endangered green turtles, Chelonia mydas, were collected between 1993 and 1995 from the upper Texas coast and opportunistically sampled for parasite fauna. Two new species of Telorchis, a common freshwater amphibian and reptilian intestinal parasite genus, were found and described. Telorchis marinus n. sp. differs from Telorchis mydas n. sp. by its short body length, lack of pharyngeal glands, long esophagus relative to total body length, short and straight cirrus sac, short ventral sucker to ovary length relative to total body length, and an ovary located in the anterior one-third of body; it differs from its congeners in the number of ovary lengths between the ventral sucker and ovary, the number of ventral sucker lengths the cirrus sac extends beyond the posterior margin of the ventral sucker, and the vitelline field extent. Telorchis mydas differs from its congeners in the number of ovary lengths between the ventral sucker and ovary, the number of ventral sucker lengths the cirrus sac extends beyond the posterior margin of the ventral sucker, and the combination of having its ovary position near the midbody and a long, sinuous cirrus sac that is 35–44% of the total body length. Given the taxonomic complexities within Telorchis, a revised key to North American species is provided using morphological characteristics to assist future researchers in delineating true species and appropriate synonymies with molecular explorations. We reject the majority of synonymies in the genus until molecular data are available; we accept the synonymies of Telorchis necturi as Telorchis stunkardi and Telorchis gutturosi as Telorchis chelopi. Both Telorchis linstowi and Telorchis stossichi should be considered as species inquirenda. This is the first confirmed report of Telorchis from a marine host and the first report on parasites of cheloniid sea turtles in Texas, and this study adds to the ever-growing evidence that collections are essential to understanding biodiversity.

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