Folia Parasitologica, vol. 59 (2012), issue 2

Folia Parasitologica 59[2] 131-138 (2012) | 10.14411/fp.2012.018

Can a specialist parasite species of a widespread and common host species be rare? The case of Spinitectus inermis (Nematoda: Cystidicolidae) in eels Anguilla anguilla

Clive R. Kennedy
School of Biological Sciences, Hatherly Laboratories, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

The claim by many authors that Spinitectus inermis (Zeder, 1800), a narrowly specific parasite of European eels Anguilla anguilla (L.), is a rare species is considered at three levels: its geographical range, its frequency of occurrence compared to other eel parasites and its relative abundance in component communities. The parasite is widely distributed in freshwater throughout the European range of the eel but its occurrence is erratic and unpredictable, being known from only 8 countries. Surveys of eel parasites in the United Kingdom and in Continental Europe show that it is present in only 13% of British and 29% of continental localities. This satisfies one of the criteria for rarity. When present, its prevalence ranges from 1.8% to 43.3%, so it can be considered rare in some localities but in a few it may be common and on occasion it may be the dominant species in the gastro-intestinal community. Populations of S. inermis are almost always characterised by high levels of overdispersion, even at low prevalence. The species also displays an ability to colonise a locality following introduction there. Overall it meets many of the criteria of a rare species including a restricted distribution and a low frequency of occurrence and so it can be considered to exhibit diffusive rarity.

Keywords: Spinitectus inermis, eel, geographical distribution, abundance, overdispersion, rarity

Received: December 1, 2011; Accepted: March 27, 2012; Published: June 1, 2012


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