Distribution records of three species of Leucochloridium (Trematoda: Leucochloridiidae) in Japan, with comments on their microtaxonomy and ecology.


Department of Parasitology, Asahikawa Medical University, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 078-8510, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]


Insectivorous birds serve as definitive hosts for trematodes of the genus Leucochloridium. The parasites exclusively use amber snails of the family Succineidae as intermediate hosts. A pulsating and colorful display of the larval broodsac in the snail's eyestalk seems to be a caterpillar mimic for attracting birds. A colored design of the broodsac is very useful for parasite identification. In Japan, characteristic broodsacs from amber snails have been recorded from 1980's, but their taxonomic discrimination from Asian, European, and North American species has not been achieved. In this study, old scientific records, sighting information on broodsacs from the general public, and direct molecular evidence by DNA barcoding clearly showed that at least three species of Leucochloridium are distributed in Japan. A vertical-striped broodsac found from Succinea sp. in Okinawa, the subtropical island of Japan, were treated as Leucochloridium sp., but being almost identical to that of Leucochloridium passeri in neighboring Taiwan. The European species of Leucochloridium perturbatum and Leucochloridium paradoxum were frequently detected from Succinea lauta in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The former species was common in inland areas of Hokkaido, whereas the latter species was frequently seen in the coastal areas. A possible explanation for the parasite distribution pattern is that principal definitive hosts (migratory or resident birds) differ in each parasite. The conspecificity of Leucochloridium variae in North America and L. perturbatum in Europe and the Far East is also discussed.