Barcoding and phylogeny of Lake Tanganyika cichlid parasites: Monogenea and Copepoda on Tropheini as a case study

Pilot project
Jos Snoeks (RMCA)
JEMU partner: 
Jeroen Van Houdt, Floris C. Breman
Project summary: 
Lake Tanganyika cichlids are widely studied because of their adaptive radiation, and their economic and ecological importance. The RMCA has traditionally been at the forefront of morphology-based systematic research and harbours the most important collections of these fishes. It participated in several collaborative programmes studying molecular aspects of their biology. The parasite fauna, however, has hardly been investigated. We want to focus on two important taxa parasitic on Tropheini in collaboration with specialists at the KUL and RBINS. Preliminary analysis on museum collections showed a high diversity of species belonging to the flatworm genera Cichlidogyrus and Gyrodactylus, both within and between host species. The second parasite group encountered, the copepod genus Ergasilus, has not been studied in detail in Lake Tanganyika. Our aim is to assess taxa diversity in those genera, and construct a phylogeny of Cichlidogyrus and Ergasilus from a selection of Tropheini cichlid species, sampled intensively throughout the lake. Using museum samples from different expeditions, we can cover a wide range of Tropheini species occurring in different regions of the lake and aim for a broad view on their parasite diversity. For Monogenea, we propose known ITS rDNA primers and the development of new mitochondrial markers (notably COI for barcoding), which will allow a reconstruction of evolutionary events on different timescales. We propose to apply the same markers to Ergasilus and here we suspect to find less diversity and different host specificity compared to Monogenea. This research will provide basic taxonomical and phylogenetic knowledge of two widely important fish parasite taxa in a region crucial to biodiversity and biodiversity studies. Moreover, biology and evolution of those parasites is relevant to fish epidemiology, aquaculture and aquaristics.
Maarten Van Hove
Lab work progress: 
Completed for the monogenean flatworms
Data analysis: 
Starting date: 
Project status: 


Peer reviewed article:

Vanhove M.P.M., Pariselle A., Van Steenberge M., Raeymaekers J.A.M., Hablützel P.I., Gillardin C., Hellemans B., Breman F.C., Koblmüller S., Sturmbauer C., Snoeks J., Volckaert F.A.M. & Huyse T. (2015) Hidden biodiversity in an ancient lake: phylogenetic congruence between Lake Tanganyika tropheine cichlids and their monogenean flatworm parasites. Scientific Reports 5: 13669

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith