Abstract

Species of Pseudocorynosoma are North and South American acanthocephalans that use waterfowl as definitive hosts and amphipods as intermediate hosts, whereas species of Andracantha occur in fish-eating birds with a worldwide distribution. Pseudocorynosoma and Andracantha were originally described as Corynosoma (now restricted to endoparasites of marine mammals). Morphologically, Andracantha is distinct from other genera of Polymorphidae in possessing 2 fields of spines on the trunk, whereas Corynosoma and Pseudocorynosoma have a single field. A recent phylogenetic hypothesis based on morphological characters suggested that Andracantha is closely related to Corynosoma, whereas Pseudocorynosoma was of uncertain phylogenetic position within the Polymorphidae. To test the systematic affinities of these 3 genera, we sequenced 2 nuclear genes (SSU and LSU ribosomal DNA) and 1 mitochondrial gene (cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1; cox 1) of species representing Corynosoma, Andracantha, and Pseudocorynosoma and analyzed the data, including available sequences of other polymorphids. Maximum parsimony (MP), maximum likelihood (ML), and Bayesian analyses of the combined (SSU + LSU) sequences and the concatenated data of 3 genes (SSU + LSU + cox 1) placed Andracantha as the sister taxon to Corynosoma with robust support values. All analyses also showed that Pseudocorynosoma is an independent lineage that does not share a common ancestry with Andracantha and Corynosoma. These phylogenetic hypotheses suggest that birds were the ancestral hosts of polymorphids and that the association of Corynosoma with marine mammals represents a subsequent episode of colonization.

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