Eel parasite diversity and intermediate host abundance in the River Rhine, Germany.
European eels (Anguilla anguilla) from 2 sampling sites on the Rhine river (near Karlsruhe and near Worms) were investigated with respect to their parasite communities. Nine different metazoan species were found to live in and on the eels. The highest number of species was recorded from the intestine, which contained up to 6 different helminths. Among these, acanthocephalans were the most prevalent worms with the eel-specific parasite Paratenuisentis ambiguus as the dominant species of the intestinal component communities at both sites. Comparing the intestinal parasites from eels caught near Karlsruhe with those from Worms, the acanthocephalans showed a significantly lower abundance at Worms. A significantly lower mean number of intestinal helminth species as well as a significantly lower Brillouin's Index was found at Worms compared with Karlsruhe. This difference could be related to the abundance of the respective intermediate crustacean hosts. At the sampling site Worms the amphipod Corophium curvispinum was the dominant crustacean. Additionally, only the isopod Jaera istri and the amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus were found. All these crustacean species have only recently colonized the Rhine river system via the Main-Danube canal, built in the early 1990s. They are not known to act as intermediate hosts for any of the acanthocephalans found in the eels. The site near Karlsruhe exhibited a higher crustacean diversity, including Asellus aquaticus and different species of the genus Gammarus, which are all known intermediate hosts for the acanthocephalans found. Therefore, changes of eel parasite diversity can be correlated with the appearance of invading crustacean species (neozoans).
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