Phylogenetic analysis of apicomplexan parasites infecting commercially valuable species from the North-East Atlantic reveals high levels of diversity and insights into the evolution of the group

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Abstract Background The Apicomplexa from aquatic environments are understudied relative to their terrestrial counterparts, and the seminal work assessing the phylogenetic relations of fish-infecting lineages is mostly based on freshwater hosts. The taxonomic uncertainty of some apicomplexan groups, such as the coccidia, is high and many genera were recently shown to be paraphyletic, questioning the value of strict morphological and ecological traits for parasite classification. Here, we surveyed the genetic diversity of the Apicomplexa in several commercially valuable vertebrates from the North-East Atlantic, including farmed fish. Results Most of the sequences retrieved were closely related to common fish coccidia of Eimeria, Goussia and Calyptospora. However, some lineages from the shark Scyliorhinus canicula were placed as sister taxa to the Isospora, Caryospora and Schellakia group. Additionally, others from Pagrus caeruleostictus and Solea senegalensis belonged to an unknown apicomplexan group previously found in the Caribbean Sea, where it was sequenced from the water column, corals, and fish. Four distinct parasite lineages were found infecting farmed Dicentrarchus labrax or Sparus aurata. One of the lineages from farmed D. labrax was also found infecting wild counterparts, and another was also recovered from farmed S. aurata and farm-associated Diplodus sargus. Conclusions Our results show that marine fish apicomplexans are diverse, and we highlight the need for a more extensive assessment of parasite diversity in this phylum. Additionally, parasites recovered from S. canicula were recovered as basal to their piscine counterparts reflecting hosts phylogeny.


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