Folia Parasitologica 63:029 (2016) | 10.14411/fp.2016.029
Endemic Sicilian pond turtles Emys trinacris Fritz, Fattizzo, Guicking, Tripepi, Pennisi, Lenk, Joger et Wink were examined for the presence of haemogregarine parasites. The presence of haemogregarines, occurring mainly in the microgametocyte stage (13.2 ± 0.12 μm in length and 6.4 ± 0.52 μm in width), was observed in approximately 9% of the sampled E. trinacris. Based on the observed morphology and on the sequencing of nuclear 18S rDNA, we identified the parasite as Haemogregarina stepanowi Danilewsky, 1885. Morphometric study of uninfected and infected red blood cells has shown that H. stepanowi induces different changes in erythrocyte shape depending on the infective stage. The differential count of leukocytes in specimens infected with H. stepanowi showed no significant difference compared with healthy specimens. However, considering the health problems which might be induced by H. stepanowi in the closely related European pond turtle Emys orbicularis (Linneaus), monitoring of the health status of the infected Sicilian populations of E. trinacris is desirable. The restricted distribution of populations of Emys infected with haemogregarines in Sicily is quite puzzling and the possible human-mediated introduction of the parasite in Sicily is briefly discussed.
Received: February 18, 2016; Accepted: June 16, 2016; Published online: August 18, 2016