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Parasite communities in eels of the Island of Reunion (Indian Ocean): a lesson in parasite introduction

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Eel populations from the small rivers on the Island of Reunion (French Overseas Department in the Indian Ocean) were investigated with respect to the occurrence and abundance of helminths during the autumn of 2005. The native species Anguilla marmorata (n = 80), Anguilla bicolor (n = 23), and Anguilla mossambica (n = 15) were studied. Six species of helminths were identified, four of them having a definitely nonnative status. Furthermore, unidentified intra-intestinal juvenile cestodes and extra-intestinal encapsulated anisakid nematode larvae were present in a few eels. We found that the invasive swim bladder nematode Anguillicoloides (Anguillicola) crassus had been introduced into the island. Six specimens were collected, four from A. marmorata, one from A. bicolor and one from A. mossambica. The maximum intensity of infection was two worms. The other helminths also showed a low abundance. These species were the monogenean gill worms Pseudodactylogyrus anguillae and Pseudodactylogyrus bini and the intestinal parasites Bothriocephalus claviceps (Cestodes), Paraquimperia africana (Nematodes), and the acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus reunionensis Warner, Sasal, and Taraschewski, 2007. The latter species, found as intra-intestinal immatures, is thought to utilize amphibians as required hosts; its status, introduced or native, could not be determined. P. africana was described from A. mossambica in South Africa and has not been recorded outside Africa. The other species are known from populations of European and American eels. However, A. crassus and the two Pseudodactylogyrus species originate from East Asia, where they are indigenous parasites of Anguilla japonica. Both an assignment test based on seven specific microsatellite loci and subsequent sequencing of mitochondrial haplotypes of a partial fragment of cytochrome c oxidase 1 strongly suggest that the A. crassus may originated around the Baltic Sea. According to the results presented here, populations of the indigenous eel species from Reunion can be considered to harbor extremely isolationist alien parasite communities. Our findings support the hypothesis that during the present time of global biological change, invasion by a nonnative species into a target island is more likely to reflect the political affiliation of the colonized environment and the pathways of trade and tourism than geographic proximity between donor and recipient areas or other natural circumstances.

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Financial support for the field work was provided by the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Departement des Sciences de la Vie for P. Sasal and by Karlsruher Universitätsgesellschaft for H. Taraschewski. Participation of F. Moravec in this study was supported by a grant (524/06/0170) from the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic. T.N. Petney kindly checked the English. Thomas Bücher has typed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pierre Sasal.

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Sasal, P., Taraschewski, H., Valade, P. et al. Parasite communities in eels of the Island of Reunion (Indian Ocean): a lesson in parasite introduction. Parasitol Res 102, 1343–1350 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-008-0916-5

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  • Invasive species
  • Eel parasites
  • Swim bladder
  • South East Indian Ocean