The primary structure of the ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacers (ITS-1 and ITS-2) and 5.8S rRNA gene were used to characterize and identify 2 monogenean species of Gyrodactylus living externally on the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). The ITS region was amplified by PCR from freshwater, brackish, and marine isolates of Gyrodactylus arcuatus and G. branchicus, and the ends of the coding regions were identified by comparative alignment. No intraspecific and very low interspecific variation were observed in the 5.8S rRNA gene; high inter- and low intraspecific variation were revealed in the ITS-1 and ITS-2 regions. The morphological species identification was in all cases confirmed by the molecular identification. Intraspecifically, samples from 2 locations in the North Sea could be differentiated, but the Baltic sample resembled North Sea genotypes. Our approach offers perspectives for a multimetric genetical, morphometrical, and ecological taxonomy of the genus Gyrodactylus.
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