Correlating early evolution of parasitic platyhelminths to Gondwana breakup
Du Preez, Louis Heyns
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Investigating patterns and processes of parasite diversification over ancient geological periods should involve comparisons of host and parasite phylogenies in a biogeographic context. It has been shown previously that the geographical distribution of host-specific parasites of sarcopterygians was guided, from Palaeozoic to Cainozoic times, mostly by evolution and diversification of their freshwater hosts. Here, we propose phylogenies of neobatrachian frogs and their specific parasites (Platyhelminthes, Monogenea) to investigate coevolutionary processes and historical biogeography of polystomes and further discuss all the possible assumptions that may account for the early evolution of these parasites. Phylogenetic analyses of concatenated rRNA nuclear genes (18S and partial 28S) supplemented by cophylogenetic and biogeographic vicariance analyses reveal four main parasite lineages that can be ascribed to centers of diversity, namely Australia, India, Africa, and South America. In addition, the relationships among these biogeographical monophyletic groups, substantiated by molecular dating, reflect sequential origins during the breakup of Gondwana. The Australian polystome lineage may have been isolated during the first stages of the breakup, whereas the Indian lineage would have arisen after the complete separation of western and eastern Gondwanan components. Next, polystomes would have codiverged with hyloid sensu stricto and ranoid frog lineages before the completion of South American and African plate separation. Ultimately, they would have undergone an extensive diversification in South America when their ancestral host families diversified. Therefore, the presence of polystome parasites in specific anuran host clades and in discrete geographic areas reveals the importance of biogeographic vicariance in diversification processes and supports the occurrence and radiation of amphibians over ancient and recent geological periods.