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About the Project

The project examines parasites of Australia’s 14 most common freshwater turtles collected from sites throughout the continent. This project represents the first comprehensive examination of the parasites of freshwater turtles on a continental scale. It is anticipated that the project will recover representatives of six phyla (Acanthocephala, Annelida, Apicomplexa, Euglenozoa, Nematoda, Platyhelminthes) and a substantial majority of all species of parasites that can be found in Australian freshwater turtles. Parasites will be collected, cataloged, identified and described as part of the project and deposited in museum collections in both Australia and the United States.

Project data, turtle specimens and tissues are provided to researchers active in the study of Australian freshwater turtle biology and to Australian state museums. In addition to uncovering unknown aspects of Australia’s biodiversity the project will generate data and specimens necessary to test a variety of hypotheses concerning parasite biodiversity, biogeography and evolution. Thus, the project focuses on an understudied host-parasite system that and has a potential to contribute into evolutionary and ecological theory and provide data for conservation and management decisions.

The project has provided and provides research opportunities to multiple undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of North Dakota. The project participants are working at four institutions in the United States and three foreign institutions, two in Australia and one in the Ukraine.

Main project activities include parasite collecting in the field, their morphological identification using light and scanning microscopy, morphological descriptions, creating keys to identification of species, molecular differentiation and phylogenetic analysis based on sequences of several regions of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, and submission of specimens to museum collections and sequences to the GenBank. As an end product of this BS&I project, we plan publication of a monograph covering all helminths of Australian turtles and separate works on other taxonomic groups of parasites.



Authors: Vasyl V. Tkach, Scott D. Snyder, Yuriy Kuzmin

University of Nebraska at Omaha University of North Dakota National Science Foundation