Host-Switching Events in Litomosoides Chandler, 1931 (Filarioidea: Onchocercidae) are Not Rampant but Clade Dependent

F. Agustín Jiménez, Juliana Notarnicola, Scott L. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The genus LitomosoidesChandler, 1931, includes species that as adults occur in the thoracic and abdominal cavity of mammalian hosts and are presumably vectored by mites. The vertebrate hosts include a variety of Neotropical mammals such as phyllostomid and mormoopid bats; cricetid, sciurid, and hystricognath rodents; and didelphid marsupials. It has been suggested that Litomosoides is not a monophyletic group and that rampant horizontal transfer explains their presence in disparate groups of mammals. Herein we present a phylogenetic reconstruction including mitochondrial genes of 13 vouchered species. This phylogeny is used to reconstruct the evolutionary history of these parasites and the ancestral states of key characters used in species classification, namely, the configuration of the spicules. The historical association of these filarioids with 6 groups of mammals, as well as their ancestral geographic distributions, were reconstructed using Bayesian statistical approaches comparing alternative models of biogeography and evolution and fossil states in selected nodes of the phylogeny. The optimal reconstruction suggests a model of dispersal, extinction, and cladogenesis (DEC) driving the evolution of Litomosoides; the results suggest an origin of Litomosoides in South America and association of ancestors with phyllostomids, and strong evidence of at least 2 host-switching events: 1 of these involving cricetid rodents and the other mormoopid bats. The latter event included a simultaneous geographic expansion of the parasite lineage across South and North America. The host-switching event from phyllostomid bats into cricetid rodents occurred once these rodents diversified across South America; subsequent diversification of the latter clade resulted in 2 branches, each showing expansion of the parasites back into North America. This result suggests that both parasites and cricetid rodents established an association in South America, underwent diversification, and then dispersed into North America. Further, this clade of cricetid-dwelling species includes parasites featuring the "sigmodontis"spicule type. The identification of a single host-switching event involving the disparate lineages of Chiroptera and Rodentia offers a framework to reconstruct the gene evolution and diversification of this lineage after the host-switching event. This will help in predicting the ability of these parasites to infect sympatric mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-335
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Parasitology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 26 2021


  • Coevolution
  • Ecological fitting
  • GABI
  • Host-switching
  • Litomosoides
  • Pathogens of bats
  • Vector-borne

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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