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Communities of gastrointestinal helminths of fish in historically connected habitats: habitat fragmentation effect in a carnivorous catfish Pelteobagrus fulvidraco from seven lakes in flood plain of the Yangtze River, China

Author(s): Li Wen | Nie Pin | Wang Gui | Yao Wei

Journal: Parasites & Vectors
ISSN 1756-3305

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 22;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background Habitat fragmentation may result in the reduction of diversity of parasite communities by affecting population size and dispersal pattern of species. In the flood plain of the Yangtze River in China, many lakes, which were once connected with the river, have become isolated since the 1950s from the river by the construction of dams and sluices, with many larger lakes subdivided into smaller ones by road embankments. These artificial barriers have inevitably obstructed the migration of fish between the river and lakes and also among lakes. In this study, the gastrointestinal helminth communities were investigated in a carnivorous fish, the yellowhead catfish Pelteobagrus fulvidraco, from two connected and five isolated lakes in the flood plain in order to detect the effect of lake fragmentation on the parasite communities. Results A total of 11 species of helminths were recorded in the stomach and intestine of P. fulvidraco from seven lakes, including two lakes connected with the Yangtze River, i.e. Poyang and Dongting lakes, and five isolated lakes, i.e. Honghu, Liangzi, Tangxun, Niushan and Baoan lakes. Mean helminth individuals and diversity of helminth communities in Honghu and Dongting lakes was lower than in the other five lakes. The nematode Procamallanus fulvidraconis was the dominant species of communities in all the seven lakes. No significant difference in the Shannon-Wiener index was detected between connected lakes (0.48) and isolated lakes (0.50). The similarity of helminth communities between Niushan and Baoan lakes was the highest (0.6708), and the lowest was between Tangxun and Dongting lakes (0.1807). The similarity was low between Dongting and the other lakes, and the similarity decreased with the geographic distance among these lakes. The helminth community in one connected lake, Poyang Lake was clustered with isolated lakes, but the community in Dongting Lake was separated in the tree. Conclusion The similarity in the helminth communities of this fish in the flood-plain lakes may be attributed to the historical connection of these habitats and to the completion of the life-cycles of this fish as well as the helminth species within the investigated habitats. The diversity and the digenean majority in the helminth communities can be related to the diet of this fish, and to the lacustrine and macrophytic characters of the habitats. The lake isolation from the river had little detectable effect on the helminth communities of the catfish in flood-plain lakes of the Yangtze River. The low similarities in helminth communities between the Dongting Lake and others may just be a reflection of its unique water environment and anthropogenic alterations or fragmentation in this lake.

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