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JOURNAL ARTICLE

A New Species of Orthonectida That Parasitizes Xenoturbella bocki: Implications for Studies on Xenoturbella

Hiroaki Nakano, Hideyuki Miyazawa
Biological Bulletin 2019, 236 (1): 66-73
30707607
Orthonectida is a phylum of marine invertebrates known to parasitize many invertebrate animals. Because of its simple body plan, it was suggested that it belong to Mesozoa, together with Dicyemida, and that it represent the evolutionary step between unicellular organisms and multicellular animals. Recent studies, including analyses of its genomes, have clarified its phylogenetic position as a member of the Protostomia, but details such as the species diversity within the phylum and how it infects the host remain unknown. Here we report orthonectids discovered from the marine worm Xenoturbella bocki. Orthonectids were found from sections of four xenoturbellid specimens, collected eight years apart. Live females were also discovered on three separate occasions. These recurring instances of orthonectids found from Xenoturbella show that they are parasitic to the animal and not just chance contaminations. Based on morphological characters such as the presence of sexual dimorphism, the arrangement of oocytes within the female body, and the presence of crystalline inclusions in the male epidermal cells, we regard this orthonectid as a new species, Rhopalura xenoturbellae sp. nov. Since orthonectids are present within the xenoturbellid adult body, caution is needed when interpreting morphological, molecular, and experimental data from X. bocki. Further studies on R. xenoturbellae will yield important information on the fundamental biological details of orthonectids that remain unknown.

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