Helminths often demonstrate preferential site selection in which a parasite will only occur in 1 microhabitat or a restricted portion of its fundamental niche within its host. However, factors responsible for helminth site specificity are poorly understood, and very little is known about how these factors vary among multiple host species. Some helminths, such as Halipegus occidualis, have been reported from different habitats (stomach or under the tongue) within multiple anuran host species, suggesting that the site selected varies within anuran species. This study examined the site selection by H. occidualis in 7 definitive anuran host species using experimental infections. Then, the site fidelity of H. occidualis was further tested by transplanting worms from under the tongue to the stomach and vice versa in different anuran host combinations, and the movement of worms was recorded. Halipegus occidualis individuals occupied the habitat under the tongue in 6 of 7 anuran species. However, worms always occupied the stomach of American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) and were never found under the tongue or in the mouth of these hosts. More importantly, all worms remained in the original habitat when transplanted from the stomach to the stomach or the buccal cavity to the buccal cavity within another individual of the same amphibian species. However, when worms were transplanted from the stomach to the buccal cavity or vice versa in the same host species, the worms always migrated back to the original habitat. The main contribution of this study is that it experimentally documented the variability in the site fidelity of H. occidualis within multiple definitive host species and determined that site fidelity is not as strongly conserved in this genus as suggested previously. Additionally, this work suggests that the variation in site selection in different host species could lead to speciation of the parasites.
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Vol. 102 • No. 1