Molecules and morphology reveal cryptic variation among digeneans infecting sympatric mullets in the Mediterranean

Parasitology. 2010 Feb;137(2):287-302. doi: 10.1017/S0031182009991375. Epub 2009 Oct 23.


We applied a combined molecular and morphological approach to resolve the taxonomic status of Saccocoelium spp. parasitizing sympatric mullets (Mugilidae) in the Mediterranean. Eight morphotypes of Saccocoelium were distinguished by means of multivariate statistical analyses: 2 of Saccocoelium obesum ex Liza spp.; 4 of S. tensum ex Liza spp.; and 2 (S. cephali and Saccocoelium sp.) ex Mugil cephalus. Sequences of the 28S and ITS2 rRNA gene regions were obtained for a total of 21 isolates of these morphotypes. Combining sequence data analysis with a detailed morphological and multivariate morphometric study of the specimens allowed the demonstration of cryptic diversity thus rejecting the hypothesis of a single species of Saccocoelium infecting sympatric mullets in the Mediterranean. Comparative sequence analysis revealed 4 unique genotypes, thus corroborating the distinct species status of Saccocoelium obesum, S. tensum and S. cephali and a new cryptic species ex Liza aurata and L. saliens recognized by its consistent morphological differentiation and genetic divergence. However, in spite of their sharp morphological difference the 2 morphotypes from M. cephalus showed no molecular differentiation and 4 morphotypes of S. tensum were genetically identical. This wide intraspecific morphological variation within S. tensum and S. cephali suggests that delimiting species of Saccocoelium using solely morphological criteria will be misleading.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Helminth / analysis
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / analysis
  • Fish Diseases / parasitology*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Smegmamorpha / parasitology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Trematoda / classification
  • Trematoda / genetics*
  • Trematoda / isolation & purification
  • Trematoda / ultrastructure*
  • Trematode Infections / parasitology
  • Trematode Infections / veterinary*


  • DNA, Helminth
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 28S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/FJ211234
  • GENBANK/FJ211235
  • GENBANK/FJ211236
  • GENBANK/FJ211237
  • GENBANK/FJ211238
  • GENBANK/FJ211239
  • GENBANK/FJ211240
  • GENBANK/FJ211241
  • GENBANK/FJ211242
  • GENBANK/FJ211243
  • GENBANK/FJ211244
  • GENBANK/FJ211245
  • GENBANK/FJ211246
  • GENBANK/FJ211247