Recent invasion theory has hypothesized that newly established exotic species may initially be free of their native parasites, augmenting their population success. Others have hypothesized that invaders may introduce exotic parasites to native species and/or may become hosts to native parasites in their new habitats. Our study analyzed the parasites of two exotic Eurasian gobies that were detected in the Great Lakes in 1990: the round goby Apollonia melanostoma and the tubenose goby Proterorhinus semilunaris. We compared our results from the central region of their introduced ranges in Lakes Huron, St. Clair, and Erie with other studies in the Great Lakes over the past decade, as well as Eurasian native and nonindigenous habitats. Results showed that goby-specific metazoan parasites were absent in the Great Lakes, and all but one species were represented only as larvae, suggesting that adult parasites presently are poorly-adapted to the new gobies as hosts. Seven parasitic species are known to infest the tubenose goby in the Great Lakes, including our new finding of the acanthocephalan Southwellina hispida, and all are rare. We provide the first findings of four parasite species in the round goby and clarified two others, totaling 22 in the Great Lakes—with most being rare. In contrast, 72 round goby parasites occur in the Black Sea region. Trematodes are the most common parasitic group of the round goby in the Great Lakes, as in their native Black Sea range and Baltic Sea introduction. Holarctic trematode Diplostomum spathaceum larvae, which are one of two widely distributed species shared with Eurasia, were found in round goby eyes from all Great Lakes localities except Lake Huron proper. Our study and others reveal no overall increases in parasitism of the invasive gobies over the past decade after their establishment in the Great Lakes. In conclusion, the parasite “load” on the invasive gobies appears relatively low in comparison with their native habitats, lending support to the “enemy release hypothesis.”
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