We analyzed the geographic distribution of Tubifex tubifex from various river drainages in central Colorado by genetic screening with specific mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA (mt 16S rDNA) markers. Four distinct mt 16S rDNA lineages are evident. The sites varied with respect to land- and water-use practices. All sites represented habitats presumed capable of supporting oligochaetes. At the locations where whirling disease has had the greatest impact on resident rainbow trout, T. tubifex, representing lineages I and III (genotypes known to be susceptible to Mxyobolus cerebralis), were most commonly found. In contrast, at sites less affected by whirling disease, T. tubifex of lineages V and VI that are more resistant to M. cerebralis infections were more abundant. The predominance of resistant T. tubifex worms (lineages V and VI) at low-impact sites supports the conclusion that when these genotypes are in greater abundance, the potential for more severe effects of whirling disease on wild rainbow trout populations may be diminished.
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