Genetic studies have indicated that some parasite species formerly thought to be generalists are complexes of morphologically similar species, each appearing to specialize on different host species. Studies on such species are needed to obtain ecological and parasitological data to address whether there are fitness costs in parasitizing atypical host species. We examined whether lungworms from two anuran host species, Lithobates sylvaticus and Lithobates pipiens, differed in measures of infection success in L. pipiens recipient hosts. We also determined if the worms from the two host species were sources of genetically resolvable species of morphologically similar nematodes. Sequences of internal transcribed spacer and lsrDNA regions of adult lungworms from each host species indicated that worms from L. sylvaticus matched Rhabdias bakeri, whereas worms from L. pipiens matched Rhabdias ranae. Our work suggested that these morphologically similar species are distant non-sibling taxa. We infected male and female metamorphs experimentally with lungworm larvae of the two species. We observed higher penetration, higher prevalence and higher mean abundance of adult worms in lungs of male and female metamorphs exposed to R. ranae larvae than in lungs of metamorphs exposed to R. bakeri larvae. Furthermore, metamorphs exposed to R. ranae larvae carried larger adult female worms in their lungs. Some variation in infection measures depended on host sex, but only for one parasite species considered. Overall, the differential establishment and reproductive potential of R. ranae and R. bakeri in L. pipiens suggests co-adaptation.

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Keywords Co-adaptation, Host specificity, ITS rDNA sequences, Parasite fitness, Rhabdias spp.
Persistent URL
Journal International Journal for Parasitology
Dare, O.K. (Oluwayemisi K.), Nadler, S.A. (Steven A.), & Forbes, M. (2008). Nematode lungworms of two species of anuran amphibians: Evidence for co-adaptation. International Journal for Parasitology, 38(14), 1729–1736. doi:10.1016/j.ijpara.2008.05.004