Learedius learediPrice, 1934, is a blood fluke found in sea turtles, and the adult fluke parasitizes the cardiovascular system of the host. In this study we surveyed 46 green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, on the Ogasawara Islands, Japan, and blood flukes were detected in the heart and blood vessels of 26 turtles. The flukes were identified as L. learedi based on a detailed morphological description. In addition, molecular identification and characterization of the parasite were performed. The nucleotide sequences of nuclear internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) regions were almost identical to those of L. learedi reported previously, but not to those of Hapalotrema spp., which is the closest related genus. The nucleotide sequences of the 28S ribosomal DNA region formed a single clade with those of the reference L. learedi in the phylogenetic tree, but not with those of Hapalotrema spp. Therefore, the nucleotide sequences of ITS2 and 28S are robust markers for distinguishing L. learedi from other species. The nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) region were analyzed to evaluate the genetic variations in L. learedi. The COI haplotypes revealed the extremely high genetic diversity of the species as well as the host turtles on the Ogasawara Islands. The haplotype frequency in the mitochondrial DNA of the green sea turtles on the Ogasawara Islands is known to be significantly different from those in other Pacific rookeries. Although the number of analyzed flukes is small in this study, no haplotype was close to that in other areas; on the basis of the data, we hypothesized that L. learedi differentiated along with the host turtles on the Ogasawara Islands.
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Vol. 105 • No. 4