Abstract

Squids are especially frequent as paratenic hosts of helminth parasites, particularly to those that have elasmobranchs and mammals as final hosts. Among those parasite species, anisakid nematode larvae and cestode plerocercoids are most effectively transferred through the trophic chain by oegopsid squids. A total of 439 short-finned squids, Illex coindetii (245 males, 190 females and 4 unsexed) were sampled in the central part of the eastern Adriatic Sea in order to assess their helminth component community and parasite dynamics with respect to host sex, maturity, seasonality, and feeding behavior. Two larval helminths were isolated, i.e., larvae of Anisakis pegreffii, characterized by molecular tools at the species level, and plerocercoids of Phyllobothrium sp., with prevalences of 30.5% and 2.3%, respectively. Highly significant seasonal variation in diet consumption, congruent with seasonal variation in anisakid intensity, was observed, underlining the tight role of squid prey in the trophic transmission of parasite. Likewise, the highest helminth prevalence and intensity of infection was recorded in autumn, when the fish prey, mostly Maurolicus muelleri, comprised the greatest proportion of diet. This helped to assign the Adriatic broadtail shortfin squid not as a first, but as a second, paratenic host for the anisakid, unlike as suggested previously. The presence of larval A. pegreffii confirms its previously reported zoogeographical distribution in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The presence of 2 helminths in I. coindetii describes the feeding patterns of the squid, as well as clearly defined and coevolved predator–prey relationships.

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