Parasitology, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of


Date of this Version



Parasites & Vectors (2014) 7: 556; 22 pages.


U.S. government work. Open access article, Creative Commons Attribution license, 4.0.


Background: A putative new species of Varestrongylus has been recently recognized in wild North American ungulates based on the ITS-2 sequences of larvae isolated from feces during a wide geographic survey. No taxonomic description was provided, as adult specimens were not examined. Methods: Lungworm specimens were collected in the terminal bronchioles of muskoxen from Quebec, and a woodland caribou from central Alberta, Canada. The L3 stage was recovered from experimentally infected slugs (Deroceras spp.). Description of specimens was based on comparative morphology and integrated approaches. Molecular identity was determined by PCR and sequencing of the ITS-2 region of the nuclear ribosomal DNA, and compared to other protostrongylids.

Results: Varestrongylus eleguneniensis sp. n. is established for a recently discovered protostrongylid nematode found in caribou (Rangifer tarandus), muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) and moose (Alces americanus); hosts that collectively occupy an extensive geographic range across northern North America. Adults of Varestrongylus eleguneniensis are distinguished from congeners by a combination of characters in males (distally bifurcate gubernaculum, relatively short equal spicules not split distally, a strongly elongate and bifurcate dorsal ray, and an undivided copulatory bursa) and females (reduced provagina with hood-like fold extending ventrally across prominent genital protuberance). Third-stage larvae resemble those found among other species in the genus. The genus Varestrongylus is emended to account for the structure of the dorsal ray characteristic of V. eleguneniensis, V. alpenae, V. alces, and V. longispiculatus.

Conclusions: Herein we describe and name V. eleguneniensis, a pulmonary protostrongylid with Rangifer tarandus as a primary definitive host, and which secondarily infects muskoxen and moose in areas of sympatry. Biogeographic history for V. eleguneniensis and V. alpenae, the only two endemic species of Varestrongylus known from North America, appears consistent with independent events of geographic expansion with cervid hosts from Eurasia into North America during the late Pliocene and Quaternary.