The expansion of parasite distributions outside of their native host and geographical ranges has occurred repeatedly over evolutionary time. Contemporary examples include emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), many of which pose threats to human, domestic animal, and wildlife populations. Theory predicts that parasites with complex life cycles will be rare as EIDs due to constraints imposed by host specialization at each life-cycle stage. In contrast to predictions of this theory, we report 2 new intermediate hosts in the 3-host life cycle of the liver fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. Results of sequence analysis of the cytochrome oxidase 1 (cox1) mitochondrial gene identified the terrestrial snail Oreohelix subrudis and the ant Formica aserva as first and second intermediate hosts, respectively, in the region. Neither of these intermediate hosts, nor their suite of domestic and wild mammalian grazers used in the life cycle, occurs within the native range of D. dendriticum in Europe. Our results from host surveys show that the prevalence of D. dendriticum in samples of O. subrudis varied between 4% and 10%, whereas mean metacercariae intensity in F. aserva varied between 33 and 41 (n = 163, mean ± SD = 38 ± 35). These results are the first to describe the complete life cycle of emerging lancet fluke in western North America. The process of multi-level ecological fitting, in which the lancet fluke possesses pre-existing traits to utilize host resources, rather than host species, at each life-cycle stage provides a mechanism for the establishment of this complex life cycle in a novel habitat and in novel hosts.
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