Background: Heligmosomoides polygyrus is a widespread gastro-intestinal nematode infecting wild Apodemus (wood mice) throughout Europe. Using molecular and morphological evidence, we review the status of Heligmosomoides from Apodemus agrarius in Poland previously considered to be an outlying clade of H. polygyrus, to further resolve the status of the laboratory model species, H. bakeri.
Methods: Morphological analysis of the male bursa and the synlophe, and molecular analyses of concatenated nuclear (28S rDNA, ITS1 and ITS2) and mitochondrial (CO1 and cytb) genes, of Heligmosomoides collected from Apodemus agrarius from two sites in Poland and comparison with related heligmosomids from voles and mice in Eurasia.
Results: Heligmosomoides neopolygyrus, a heligmosomid nematode from Apodemus species from China and Japan, is recognised for the first time in western Europe infecting Apodemus agrarius in Poland. It can be distinguished from H. polygyrus by the filiform externo-dorsal rays of the male copulatory bursa and the small, equally distributed longitudinal crêtes on the body. Specimens from A. agrarius are 20% different at ribosomal (ITS1 and ITS2) nuclear loci, and 10% different at the mitochondrial cytb locus from H. polygyrus, and in phylogenetic analyses group with the vole-infecting genus Heligmosomum.
Conclusions: Despite morphological similarity, H. neopolygyrus is only distantly related to H. polygyrus from western European Apodemus, and may be more closely related to vole-infecting taxa. It was brought into Europe by the recent rapid migration of the host mice. Inclusion of H. neopolygyrus in phylogenies makes it clear that Heligmosomoides is paraphyletic, with the pika-infecting Ohbayashinema and the vole-infecting Heligmosomum nesting within it. Clarification of the European status of H. neopolygyrus also allows H. bakeri, the laboratory model species, to be seen as a terminal sister clade to H. polygyrus, rather than as an internal clade of the latter taxon.
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