MOLECULAR AND MORPHOLOGICAL EVIDENCE DEMONSTRATING TWO SPECIES OFHELICOMETRINALINTON 1910(DIGENEA: OPECOELIDAE) IN NORTHERN CHILE

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Abstract

The opecoelid Helicometrina nimiaLinton, 1910 has been reported from numerous marine fishes along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the Americas. Along the Chilean coast, H. nimia is found in fishes belonging to at least 9 families. This surprisingly low host specificity of H. nimia raises question about the correct identification of specimens assigned to this species. Here we evaluate whether H. nimia specimens isolated from sympatric fish species in northern Chile but with different diets and found in different habitats (water column and demersal) are the same species. Our results demonstrate that specimens from the shallow benthic fish Labrisomus philippii (Steindachner) do not correspond to H. nimia but instead belong to a new species of Helicometrina. This species is described and distinguished from H. nimia using morphological descriptions and 2 molecular markers (the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene and the V4 region of the SSU rRNA gene). The new species Helicometrina labrisomi (Digenea: Opecoelidae), is found in the intestine of L. philippii (Steindachner, 1866) (Pisces: Labrisomidae), a shallow benthic fish that inhabits the northern coast of Chile. We also studied the related Helicometrina nimiaLinton, 1910 from the benthopelagic fishes Paralabrax humeralis (Valenciennes, 1828) and Acanthistius pictus (Tschudi, 1846) (Serranidae). The new species differs from H. nimia by a combination of characters that include ovary shape, number of uterine loops, and position of the genital pore. Our results indicate that morphological characteristics, such as body size, extent of the vitellarium, shape of the testes, and cirrus sac size and extent, traditionally used in the taxonomy of Helicometrina are highly variable. In contrast, meristic and morphological characteristics, such as a lobed ovary, the number of uterine loops, dimensions of the pharynx, and the opening of the genital pore, are highly constant.

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