Metagonimoides oregonensis (heterophyidae: digenea) infection in pleurocerid snails and desmognathus quadramaculatus salamander larvae in southern Appalachian streams
Metagonimoides oregonensis (Heterophyidae) is a little-known digenetic trematode that uses raccoons and possibly mink as definitive hosts, and stream snails and amphibians as intermediate hosts. Some variation in the life cycle and adult morphology in western and eastern populations has been previously noted. In the southern Appalachians, Pleurocera snails and stream salamanders, e.g., Desmognathus spp., are used as intermediate hosts in the life cycle. We completed a series of studies in this system examining some aspects of larval trematode morphology and first and second intermediate host use. Molecular sequencing of the 28S rDNA of cercariae in our survey placed them clearly within the heterophyid family. However, light and scanning electron microscopy revealed both lateral and dorso-ventral finfolds on the cercariae in our region, whereas original descriptions of M. oregonensis cercariae from the west coast indicate only a dorso-ventral finfold, so further work on the systematics of this group may be warranted. A survey of first intermediate host, Pleurocera proxima, from 7 streams in the region identified only M. oregonensis, virgulate-type cercariae, and cotylomicrocercous-type cercariae in the streams, with M. oregonensis having the highest prevalence, and the only type present that use amphibians as second intermediate hosts. Based on clearing and staining of 6 Desmognathus quadramaculatus salamander larvae, we found that individual salamanders could have over 600 metacercariae, which form between muscle fibers throughout the body. Histological observations suggest that the metacercariae do not cause excessive tissue damage or inflammation, and likely persist through metamorphosis, thereby transmitting potentially large numbers of worms to definitive host raccoons foraging along streams.