JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, NON-P.H.S.
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Novelty and phylogenetic affinities of a new family of tapeworms (Cestoda: Rhinebothriidea) from endangered sawfish and guitarfish.

The parasites of hosts of conservation concern are often poorly known. This is the case with the iconic group of elasmobranchs known as the sawfish of the genus Pristis, all four species of which are considered as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, Switzerland). Examination of cestodes from three species of sawfish (Pristis pristis, Pristis clavata, and Pristis zijsron) in Australia and one of their close relatives, the also critically endangered widenose guitarfish, Glaucostegus obtusus, in India, collected over the past 25 years, yielded four new species of tapeworms which are described herein. All four belong to the previously monotypic Mixobothrium; the diagnosis of the genus is revised to accommodate the new species. Among the new taxa is a species that had been included in previous molecular phylogenies but whose identity and affinities within the order Rhinebothriidea, and thus also its familial placement, were unclear. This species exhibits the morphological features of Mixobothrium and thus its identity is, at long last, revealed. Sequence data generated for the 28S rDNA gene for three of the new species, as well as an additional new but yet undescribed species from Pristis pectinata from Florida (USA), confirms the uniqueness of this group among the rhinebothriideans. The new family Mixobothriidae is established to house these taxa. The members of this family differ from all but one of the five other families of rhinebothriideans in lacking apical suckers on their bothridia. They are also distinctive in that their bothridia are divided into three regions. The anterior and posterior regions have similar locular configurations to one another and differ from the locular configuration of the middle region. As a consequence, the bothridia are symmetrical along both their vertical and horizontal axes. We predict that a focus on species of guitarfish in the genus Glaucostegus will be the most productive approach for discovering additional diversity in this family of cestodes.

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