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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Nov;75(22):7051-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01306-09. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

Molecular identification and hidden diversity of novel Daphnia parasites from European lakes.

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Department Biologie II, Evolutionsökologie, Grosshaderner Str. 2, D-82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


Parasites play important roles in local population dynamics and genetic structure. However, due to insufficient diagnostic tools, detailed host-parasite interactions may remain concealed by hidden parasite diversity in natural systems. Microscopic examination of 19 European lake Daphnia populations revealed the presence of three groups of parasites: fungi, microsporidia, and oomycetes. For most of these parasites no genetic markers have been described so far. Based on sequence similarities of the nuclear small-subunit and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rRNA gene regions, one fungus, four microsporidian, and nine oomycete taxa were discovered in 147 infected Daphnia (and/or three other zooplankton crustaceans). Additionally, cloning of rRNA gene regions revealed parasite sequence variation within host individuals. This was most pronounced in the ITS region of one microsporidian taxon, where the within-host sequence variation ranged from 1.7% to 5.3% polymorphic sites for parasite isolates from 14 different geographical locations. Interestingly, the parasite isolates from close locations grouped together based on sequence similarities, suggesting that there was parasite dispersal. Taken together, the data obtained in this study revealed hidden diversity of parasite communities in Daphnia lake populations. Moreover, a higher level of resolution for identifying parasite strains makes it possible to test new hypotheses with respect to parasite dispersal, transmission routes, and coinfection.

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