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Molecular data reveal cryptic speciation and host specificity in Toxascaris leonina (Nematoda: Ascarididae)

Fogt-Wyrwas, Renata, Dabert, Mirosława, Jarosz, Wojciech, Rząd, Izabela, Pilarczyk, Bogumiła, Mizgajska-Wiktor, Hanna
Veterinary parasitology 2019 v.266 pp. 80-83
Canidae, Felidae, Toxascaris leonina, cryptic speciation, dogs, foxes, genetic distance, host specificity, hosts, internal transcribed spacers, parasites, phylogeny, wolves
Toxascaris leonina (Ascarididae) is a cosmopolitan and polyxenical parasite whose host are canids and felids. To date, molecular phylogenetic studies included toxascarid representatives collected only from dogs or felids, therefore the intra-species differences between T. leonina collected from different host species has not been noticed. In this paper, we test the hypothesis of cryptic speciation in the T. leonina complex based on extended sequence data (ITS1, nad1, cox1) and individuals collected from dogs, felids and foxes. Phylogenetic analysis clustered T. leonina representatives into three well-supported clades depending on their host species, i.e. dogs and wolves, wild felids and foxes. Both genetic distances and the barcoding-gap analysis strongly support the species status of populations inhabiting different hosts. The results suggest additional genetic separation in felids. However, to determine the actual size of the Toxascaris complex, it would be necessary to analyse individuals collected from other canid and felid Toxascaris leonina host species.