Since 2000, cutaneous nodular lesions were observed in Tohoku hynobiid salamanders (Hynobius lichenatus) in the northern Abukuma Mountains, northeastern Honshu, Japan. The distribution of diseased salamanders has expanded, along with the increasing severity of the disease. Samples (foreleg, hindleg, and tail) from five diseased salamanders caught in the spring of 2009 contained 11 to 383 metacercarial cysts (0.43–0.48 mm in diameter) per individual. Experimental inoculations of the metacercariae into rats (Rattus norvegicus) resulted in the development of pentagonal adults with intrauterine eggs that were collected at 3 days, 2 wk, and 5 wk postinoculation. Although adults obtained from rats were smaller, the flukes were morphologically similar to Euryhelmis costaricensis, recorded from Japanese martens (Martes melampus) in northeastern Honshu. The ribosomal RNA gene sequences of the metacercariae collected from salamanders and the E. costaricensis collected from a Japanese marten were identical, confirming the morphology-based species identification. Environmental changes responsible for the increased frequency of diseased salamanders and the increased parasite load are unknown, although increases in feral populations of introduced raccoons (Procyon lotor) and American minks (Neovison vison) may be associated.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3