Two New Species of Unikaryon (Microsporidia) Hyperparasitic In Microphallid Metacercariae (Digenea) From Florida Intertidal Crabs

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


The genus Unikaryon (Microsporidia) holds exclusively hyperparasites of Platyhelminthes. Four species of Unikaryon are presently known from trematodes infecting mollusks and fish, and one from a cestode infecting a fish. Here we report two species of Unikaryon from microphallid trematode metacercariae parasitizing the brachyuran crabs, Panopeus herbstii and Pachygrapsus transversus, collected from intertidal habitats in Florida. The first microsporidium, which we assign here to a new species, Unikaryon panopei sp. n., was isolated from Microphallus sp. encysted in Panopeus herbstii from Tampa Bay. The specific designation for the second Unikaryon sp. (Unikaryon sp. 2), which occurred in metacercaria of Diacetabulum sp. found in P. transversus from the Florida Keys, is pending due to the lack of SSrDNA sequence data. Light and electron microscopy demonstrates that both species display characteristics of the genus Unikaryon including the arrangement of spores in sets of two, large posterior vacuole, and eccentric position of the polar filament. Spores of Unikaryon panopei sp. n., unlike those of Unikaryon sp. 2, assemble in large membrane-bound masses containing hundreds of organisms, and display a larger number of polar filament coils – 7–8, compared to 4–5 in Unikaryon sp. 2 The SSUrDNA-inferred phylogenetic analysis places Unikaryon panopei in one clade with Unikaryon legeri, the only other molecularly characterized member of the genus, with 94% of SSUrDNA similarity. These findings increase the number of species parasitizing trematodes and broaden the host range of Unikaryon spp.

Publication Title

Journal of Invertebrate Pathology



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