Division of Parasites

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Division of Parasites
Museum of Southwestern Biology
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Division of Parasites
Museum of Southwestern Biology
CERIA Building 83 Room 204
302 Yale Blvd NE
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131


Global Schistosome Diversity

Schistosomatidae includes 96 species in 14 genera and is currently divided into four subfamilies: Bilharziellinae and Gigantobilharzinae in birds, Schistosomatinae in mammals (and a few birds), and Griphobilharzinae in crocodiles. Our molecular studies indicate that Griphobilharzinae nest within the Spirorchiidae so is not a schistosome (Brant & Loker 2005). Over half of schistosome diversity (65%) lies within a large clade that parasitizes birds, which includes Bilharziellinae and Gigantobilharzinae. Until recently, the BTGD clade has received little attention and its taxonomy is in disarray. In the last several years, a new genus and several new lineages in the BTGD clade have been discovered with morphological features quite different and opposite to those for the mammalian schistosomes. These features include: short or absent gynecophoric canal; either flat or thread-like bodies; reduced dimorphism; no pair formation; and the use of both freshwater and marine snail hosts. Impact on the taxonomy of Schistosomatidae: A critical result of this research will be the establishment of a database and natural classification for the avian schistosomes based on morphology, life cycle biology and DNA. Schistosomes are significant on the world health agenda at a time when taxonomy wanes in expertise. This research will illuminate the life history and diversity of a very understudied schistosome clade by providing baseline data for large and small-scale evolutionary hypothesis testing.

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