Hidden diversity of the most basal tapeworms (Cestoda, Gyrocotylidea), the enigmatic parasites of holocephalans (Chimaeriformes)

Daniel Barčák, Chia Kwung Fan, Pasaikou Sonko, Roman Kuchta, Tomáš Scholz, Martina Orosová, Hsuan Wien Chen, Mikuláš Oros

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Gyrocotylideans are evolutionary ancient parasitic flatworms, and like their hosts—a relict group of holocephalan fishes (Chimaeriformes)—they are considered to be “living fossils” of a vanished past. However, the species diversity, host associations and biogeography of these most basal tapeworms are poorly known. Herein, we provide evidence of a conspicuous contrast between the genetic and morphological data based on an examination of newly collected and properly processed Gyrocotyle specimens (hologenophores) isolated from holocephalans off Taiwan and Argentina. Our molecular data, inferred from three genes (COI, 28S rRNA, 18S rRNA), showed unexpected genetic interrelationships among isolates of the genus Gyrocotyle, because each of the four genotypes from Taiwan clustered with isolates of distinct gyrocotylideans from the North Atlantic. Three genotypes of Gyrocotyle from Taiwan were morphologically almost indistinguishable from each other but represented distinct genetic lineages; a single specimen of Gyrocotyle sp. genotype 4 exhibited a clear genetic and morphological distinctness, though its formal description as a new species would be premature. Additionally, specimens of Gyrocotyle rugosa Diesing, 1850, from the type host Callorhinchus callorynchus from Argentina, provided the first genetic data on the type species of the genus and enabled us to characterise it, which is necessary for future taxonomic studies. The finding of some specimens of Gyrocotyle sp. genotype 3 in Chimaera phantasma, and another one in C. cf. argiloba, together with the putative conspecificity of an unidentified gyrocotylidean from Callorhinchus milii off Australia and G. rugosa from C. callorynchus off Argentina, represent evidence that one gyrocotylidean species may parasitise more than one holocephalan host species. Existing taxonomic problems and conflicts between morphological and molecular data on species of Gyrocotyle can only be resolved if hologenophores from type hosts and localities of nominal taxa are properly characterised genetically and morphologically.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5492
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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