Parasites of sharks and rays off Borneo: a biodiversity hot spot

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This international project focuses on the elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and their metazoan parasites of inshore and freshwater habitats of Borneo. It is a collaborative project involving parasite and fish taxonomists from eight different institutions in the USA, Australia and Malaysia.

Preliminary surveys suggested this region was home to well over 100 species of sharks and rays, many of which are poorly known, and at least some of which were likely to be new to science. Few records of metazoan parasites existed for sharks and rays of this geographic region before this project.

A total of six surveys were conducted over six years in Malaysian Borneo (2002–2004) and Indonesian Borneo (2006–2008). During this time over 900 specimens of sharks and rays were collected. These were infected by a multitude of metazoan parasites belonging to at least four animal phyla, including all four major groups of platyhelminths, as well as annelids, nematodes and perhaps as many as five major groups of arthropods.

Dr Leslie Chisholm examined the gills, noses and skin of the sharks and rays collected for monogenean parasites. While analyses of samples are still underway, Leslie and Associate Professor Ian Whittington have so far described eight new species and one new genus of monocotylid monogeneans (flatworm parasites). They anticipate that at least another six new species remain to be described.

Caira, J. N. (University of Connecticut), Jensen, K. (University of Kansas), Last, P. R. (CSIRO), and Naylor, G. J. P. (Florida State University) with participation by a team of international collaborators including Whittington, I. D. and Chisholm, L. A.  A Survey of the Elasmobranchs and their Metazoan Parasites of Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo. Funded by the United States National Science Foundation’s Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program.

 

Read more about this research in UNLOCKED: Catch of the Day in Borneo uncovers new species (14 June 2013).