Publication details

Metazoan parasites of African annual killifish (Nothobranchiidae): abundance, diversity, and their environmental correlates



Year of publication 2017
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source BIOTROPICA
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords distribution patterns; fish intermediate host; habitat variation; Limpopo; Mozambique; Nothobranchius furzeri; paratenic host
Description Estimates of biodiversity and its global patterns are affected by parasite richness and specificity. Despite this, parasite communities are largely neglected in biodiversity estimates, especially in the tropics. We studied the parasites of annual killifish of the genus Nothobranchius that inhabit annually desiccating pools across the African savannah and survive the dry period as developmentally arrested embryos. Their discontinuous, non-overlapping generations make them a unique organism in which to study natural parasite fauna. We investigated the relationship between global (climate and altitude) and local (pool size, vegetation, host density and diversity, and diversity of potential intermediate hosts) environmental factors and the community structure of killifish parasites. We examined metazoan parasites from 21 populations of four host species (Nothobranchius orthonotus, N.furzeri, N.kadleci, and N.pienaari) across a gradient of aridity in Mozambique. Seventeen parasite taxa were recorded, with trematode larval stages (metacercariae) being the most abundant taxa. The parasites recorded were both allogenic (life cycle includes non-aquatic host; predominantly trematodes) and autogenic (cycling only in aquatic hosts; nematodes). The parasite abundance was highest in climatic regions with intermediate aridity, while parasite diversity was associated with local environmental characteristics and positively correlated with fish species diversity and the amount of aquatic vegetation. Our results suggest that parasite communities of sympatric Nothobranchius species are similar and dominated by the larval stages of generalist parasites. Therefore, Nothobranchius serve as important intermediate or paratenic hosts of parasites, with piscivorous birds and predatory fish being their most likely definitive hosts.

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