Abstract

The taxonomy of the coccidia has historically been morphologically based. The purpose of this study was to establish if conspecificity of isolates of Eimeria callospermophili from 4 ground-dwelling squirrel hosts (Rodentia: Sciuridae) is supported by comparison of rDNA sequence data and to examine how this species relates to eimerian species from other sciurid hosts. Eimeria callospermophili was isolated from 4 wild-caught hosts, i.e., Urocitellus elegans, Cynomys leucurus, Marmota flaviventris, and Cynomys ludovicianus. The ITS1 and ITS2 genomic rDNA sequences were PCR generated, sequenced, and analyzed. The highest intraspecific pairwise distance values of 6.0% in ITS1 and 7.1% in ITS2 were observed in C. leucurus. Interspecific pairwise distance values >5% do not support E. callospermophili conspecificity. Generated E. callospermophili sequences were compared to Eimeria lancasterensis from Sciurus niger and Sciurus niger cinereus and to Eimeria ontarioensis from S. niger. A single, well-supported clade was formed by E. callospermophili amplicons in neighbor joining and maximum parsimony analyses. However, within the clade, there was little evidence of host or geographic structuring of the species.

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