Folia Parasitologica, vol. 65 (2018)

Folia Parasitologica 65:004 (2018) | DOI: 10.14411/fp.2018.004

Two new species of Hepatozoon (Apicomplexa: Hepatozoidae) parasitising species of Philothamnus (Ophidia: Colubridae) from South Africa

Courtney Antonia Cook1,2, Edward Charles Netherlands2,3, Johann van As1, Nico Jacobus Smit2
1 Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of the Free State, Qwaqwa Campus, Phuthaditjhaba, South Africa;
2 Water Research Group, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa;
3 Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

To date, only a few species of Hepatozoon Miller, 1908 have been described from amphibians and reptiles of South Africa, including two species from anuran hosts, three from saurians, one from chelonians, and two from ophidians. Hepatozoon bitis (Fantham, 1925) and Hepatozoon refringens (Sambon et Seligmann, 1907), parasitising Bitis arientans (Merrem) and Pseudoaspis cana (Linnaeus), respectively, were described in the early 1900s and since then there have been no further species of Hepatozoon described from snakes in South Africa. Blood smears, used in peripheral blood haemogregarine stage morphometrics, and whole blood used in molecular characterisation of haemogregarines were collected from the caudal vein of six snakes of three species, namely Philothamnus hoplogaster (Günther), Philothamnus semivariegatus (Smith) and Philothamnus natalensis natalensis (Smith). For comparison, a comprehensive table summarising available information on species of Hepatozoon from African snakes is presented. Haemogregarines found infecting the snakes from the present study were morphologically and molecularly different from any previously described from Africa and are thus here described as Hepatozoon angeladaviesae sp. n. and Hepatozoon cecilhoarei sp. n. Both haemogregarine species were observed to cause considerable dehaemoglobinisation of the host cell, in case of infection with H. angeladaviesae resulting in a characteristic peripheral undulation of the host cell membrane and karyorrhexis. To the authors' knowledge, these are the first haemogregarines parasitising snakes of the genus Philothamnus Smith described using both morphological and molecular characteristics in Africa.

Keywords: serpents, snakes, haemogregarines, phylogeny, adeleorid taxonomy, 18S rDNA, haemoparasites

Received: June 23, 2017; Accepted: January 10, 2018; Published online: April 3, 2018


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