Date of this Version
Parasitology (2000) 121: 455-463.
Nuclear-encoded large-subunit ribosomal DNA sequences were used to infer a phylogenetic hypothesis for 17 taxa (16 nominal species) of the genera Contracaecum and Phocascaris. Phylogenetic trees based on these data have been used to assess the validity of the taxonomic distinction between these genera, which was based on the presence or absence of certain structural features, rather than on explicit hypotheses of evolutionary history. Phylogenetic hypotheses based on parsimony, likelihood, and neighbor-joining analyses of these sequence data strongly support the hypothesis that species of Phocascaris are nested within the clade of Contracaecum species hosted by phocid seals, and are more closely related to species of the Contracaecum osculatum complex than to other Contracaecum species. Alternative tree topologies representing Phocascaris as not nested within the C. osculatum complex were significantly worse interpretations of these sequence data. Phylogenetic analysis also provides strong support for the monophyly of all taxa (Contracaecum and Phocascaris) from phocid seals, which is consistent with Berland's (1964) proposal that such species form a natural group; however, his proposal to recognize all species in phocid seals as Phocascaris, with all species from birds as Contracaecum would result in a paraphyletic Contracaecum, according to the molecular phylogenetic hypothesis.