Phylogeny and paraphyly among tetrapod blood flukes (Digenea: Schistosomatidae and Spirorchiidae)

Scott D. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The blood flukes of turtles (Digenea: Spirorchiidae) and the blood flukes of crocodilians, birds and mammals (Digenea: Schistosomatidae) have long been considered as closely related, but distinct evolutionary lineages. Recent morphological and molecular studies have considered these families as sister taxa within the Schistosomatoidea. Representatives of both families have similar furcocercous cercariae and similar two-host life cycles, but have different definitive hosts, distinct reproductive patterns and different morphologies. Sequences including approximately 1800 bases of the small subunit ribosomal DNA and 1200 bases of the large subunit ribosomal DNA were generated from representatives of eight spirorchiid genera. These sequences were aligned with pre-existing sequences of Schistosomatidae and other representatives of the Diplostomida and analysed for phylogenetic signal using maximum parsimony and Bayesian inference. These analyses revealed that the Spirorchiidae is paraphyletic and that the turtle blood flukes are basal to the highly derived schistosomatids. Three genera of spirorchiids from marine turtles form a sister group to the Schistosomatidae and five genera of spirorchiids from freshwater turtles occupy basal positions in the phylogeny of tetrapod blood flukes. Marine turtles are considered to be derived from freshwater turtles and the results of the current study indicate that the spirorchiid parasites of marine turtles are similarly derived from a freshwater ancestor. The close relationship of the marine spirorchiids to schistosomatids and the basal position of the marine transmitted Austrobilharzia and Ornithobilharzia in the schistosomatid clade suggests that schistosomatids arose after a marine turtle blood fluke ancestor successfully colonised birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1385-1392
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Blood fluke
  • Digenea
  • Schistosomatidae
  • Spirorchiidae
  • Tetrapods
  • Turtles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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