The Rhine as Hotspot of Parasite Invasions

  • Bernd SuresEmail author
  • Milen Nachev
  • Daniel Grabner
Part of the Parasitology Research Monographs book series (Parasitology Res. Monogr., volume 12)


The Rhine has been severely impacted by non-indigenous free-living and parasite species, largely triggered by the connection of the Ponto-Caspian and the Central European area due to the inauguration of the Main-Danube Canal in 1992. In the present review, we give a brief summary of species invasions in the Rhine with a focus on non-indigenous free-living and parasite species and related changes in species communities that have been recorded in the last decades. Among the most relevant invaders, we find the “killer shrimp,” Dikerogammarus villosus, and various species of gobiids. Together with non-indigenous hosts, several parasite species were introduced and stayed mostly with their original host, e.g., the monogenean Gyrodactylus proterorhini on gobiids and the acanthocephalan Paratenuisentis ambiguus in its specific non-indigenous intermediate host Gammarus tigrinus. Other parasites colonized indigenous host species after their introduction (parasite spillover), e.g., the monogeneans Pseudodactylogyrus bini and Pseudodactylogyrus anguillae, the nematode Anguillicola crassus, the tapeworm Schyzocotyle acheilognathi, and acanthocephalans of the genus Pomphorhynchus. As both A. crassus and Pomphorhynchus sp. use non-indigenous gobies as paratenic hosts, we also find an example of parasite spillover in the Rhine. Furthermore, in cases of co-infection of the same host, Pomphorhynchus sp. cysts in the gobies serve as a “refuge” for the larvae of A. crassus, which probably increases the efficiency of transmission to the eel final host. Therefore, this combination of an invasive host species and the two parasites is a unique example of an invasional meltdown. Finally, we illustrate the drastic changes in parasite communities caused by interactions of indigenous and non-indigenous species and their parasites, using the examples of eel and gobies as host species.


Rhine history Fish parasites Invading fish species Richness in species 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aquatic Ecology and Centre for Water and Environmental ResearchUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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