Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 285–292 | Cite as

Digenean trematodes infecting the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina have species-specific cercarial emergence patterns that follow daily or semilunar spawning cycles

  • Tim Lucas
  • Elizabeth K. O‘Brien
  • Tom Cribb
  • Bernard M. DegnanEmail author
Research Article


Approximately 1–2% of the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina inhabiting Heron Island Reef are infected with opecoelid digeneans. These largely inhabit the haemocoel surrounding the cerebral ganglia and digestive gland–gonad complex, and infected abalone typically have significantly reduced or ablated gonads. Observations of infected abalone reveal two distinct cercarial emergence patterns, one which correlates tightly with the abalone’s highly regular and synchronous fortnightly spawning cycle, and the other which occurs in a circadian pattern. The former appears to be a novel emergence strategy not previously observed in digeneans. While the cercariae in all abalone are morphologically indistinguishable, comparison of sequences from the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS 2) region of the ribosomal DNA reveals a 5.7% difference between cercariae displaying different emergence patterns, indicating these are two distinct species that probably belong to the same genus. The ITS 2 sequences of the species with the daily emergence pattern are identical to that of an undescribed adult opecoelid from the gut of the barramundi cod, Cromileptes altivelis. Combined molecular, morphological and emergence data suggest that while these opecoelid cercariae use the same first intermediate host and are closely related species—members of the genus Allopodocotyle—they fill different ecological niches that are likely to include different definitive hosts.


Digestive Gland Great Barrier Reef Reef Flat Reef Crest Spawning Season 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank P. Kraft and E. Lucas for their volunteer assistance. This work was supported by an Australian Research Council grant to BMD.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Lucas
    • 1
  • Elizabeth K. O‘Brien
    • 1
  • Tom Cribb
    • 2
  • Bernard M. Degnan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Integrative BiologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and ParasitologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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