Lungworms from the genus Dictyocaulus cause parasitic bronchitis (dictyocaulosis) characterized by coughing and severe lung pathology in both domestic and wild ruminants. In this study we investigated the interrelationships of Dictyocaulus spp. from European bison (Bison bonasus L.), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and red deer (Cervus elaphus) by nucleotide sequence analysis spanning the 18S RNA gene (small subunit [SSU]) and internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) regions of the ribosomal gene array as well as the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1). Molecular analyses of sequence data obtained partly with novel primers from between 10 and 50 specimens from each host were carried out. Bayesian inference analysis revealed that each host species was infected with different genotypes. Analysis of cox1 sequence data showed a diverse genetic background and high evolutionary potential of Dictyocaulus taxa. Data from lungworms of European bison revealed a distinct genotype of Dictyocaulus viviparus, whereas Dictyocaulus capreolus was only found in roe deer. In contrast, red deer were infected with a taxon with unique SSU, ITS2, and cox1 sequences. These results indicate the occurrence of a novel genotype from red deer, which differs significantly from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reference sequence of Dictyocaulus eckerti. The molecular evidence was consistent with a morphological study with description and imaging of Dictyocaulus cervi n. sp. recovered from red deer. Dictyocaulus cervi n. sp. can be distinguished from D. eckerti on the basis of the absence of cervical papillae, the occurrence of a single ring of 4 symmetrical submedian cephalic papillae, length of the tail in females, morphometry of the female reproductive system, and measurements of gubernacula in males. In conclusion, our findings further strengthen the idea that the genetic complexity and diversity among Dictyocaulus lungworms infecting wildlife ruminants is larger than previously believed and warrants further investigation.
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