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Parasitology. 2012 Jun;139(7):870-80. doi: 10.1017/S0031182012000303. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

Natural distribution and co-infection patterns of microsporidia parasites in the Daphnia longispina complex.

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Department Biologie II, Großhaderner Strasse 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


Microsporidia are intracellular parasites, frequently infecting the planktonic crustacean Daphnia. Questioning the ability to detect and identify microsporidia with conventional microscopic techniques, we applied molecular methods in order to investigate the distribution and co-infection patterns of this parasite among 8 communities of the Daphnia longispina hybrid complex. Eight microsporidian taxa were detected, including 3 that previously had not been characterized genetically. Microsporidian communities from nearby lakes were found to be more similar to each other, apparently due to short distance dispersal via secondary hosts. Moreover, we detected seasonal (but not interannual) changes in microsporidian community structure. With some microsporidia being host-specific, these changes might have resulted from seasonal changes in host taxon and clonal composition. The 2 dominant and closely related parasite species were found mainly in single infections, whereas another pair of related microsporidians was found predominantly in co-infections; suggesting species-level differences in the ability to colonize infected hosts. By applying molecular methods, we were not only able to unambiguously identify parasite taxa but also to reveal multiple infections that otherwise would have remained undetected. Given the increased level of accuracy and sensitivity, we highly recommend molecular approaches in future parasite surveys of Daphnia infections.

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