Genetic analyses of hosts and their parasites are key to understand the evolutionary patterns and processes that have shaped host–parasite associations. We evaluated the genetic structure of the digenean Crassicutis cichlasomae and its most common host, the Mayan cichlid “Cichlasoma” urophthalmus, encompassing most of their geographical range in Middle-America (river basins in southeastern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala together with the Yucatan Peninsula). Genetic diversity and structure analyses were done based on 167 cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 sequences (330 bp) for C. cichlasomae from 21 populations and 161 cytochrome b sequences (599 bp) for “C.” urophthalmus from 26 populations. Analyses performed included phylogenetic tree estimation under Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood analysis, genetic diversity, distance and structure estimates, haplotype networks, and demographic evaluations. Crassicutis cichlasomae showed high genetic diversity values and genetic structuring, corresponding with 4 groups clearly differentiated and highly divergent. Conversely, “C.” urophthalmus showed low levels of genetic diversity and genetic differentiation, defined as 2 groups with low divergence and with no correspondence with geographical distribution. Our results show that species of cichlids parasitized by C. cichlasomae other than “C.” urophthalmus, along with multiple colonization events and subsequent isolation in different basins, are likely factors that shaped the genetic structure of the parasite. Meanwhile, historical long-distance dispersal and drought periods during the Holocene, with significant population size reductions and fragmentations, are factors that could have shaped the genetic structure of the Mayan cichlid.
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