Richness and diversity of parasite communities in European eels Anguilla anguilla of the River Rhine, Germany, with special reference to helminth parasites

B. SURES a1c1, K. KNOPF a1, J. WÜRTZ a1 and J. HIRT a2
a1 Zoologisches Institut, Ökologie/Parasitologie, Gebäude 30.43, Universität Karlsruhe, Kaiserstrasse 12, 76128 Karlsruhe, Germany
a2 Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Erbprinzenstrasse 13, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany


A total of 121 European eels (Anguilla anguilla) from 2 sampling sites on the River Rhine were investigated in respect of their parasite communities. Special attention was given to the swim bladders, intestines, gills and fins of the fish. Twelve different parasite species were found to live in and on the eels. Data from each sampling site were kept separate. Parasites found in descending order of prevalence were: Anguillicola crassus, Trypanosoma granulosum, Myxobolus sp., Paratenuisentis ambiguus, Pseudodactylogyrus sp., Bothriocephalus claviceps, Myxidium giardi, Pomphorhynchus laevis, Trichodina sp., Raphidascaris acus, Acanthocephalus lucii and Acanthocephalus anguillae. Significantly different prevalences were reported for L3 larvae of A. crassus, adult P. ambiguus, B. claviceps and Myxobolus sp. at the 2 sampling sites. The highest number of parasite species was recorded from the intestine, which contained up to 6 different helminths. The coexistence of the acanthocephalans P. laevis and P. ambiguus, which showed clear patterns of distribution within the intestine of the respective hosts, was reported for the first time. Up to 3 different helminth species were found in the intestine of individual fish. Among those, acanthocephalans were the most prevalent worms with the eel-specific parasite P. ambiguus as the dominant species not only of the intestinal but also of the total component communities. Both infra and component communities exhibited low diversity and were dominated by this single species. The evenness reached only approximately 50% or less and it remained unclear why the helminth communities of the eels from the River Rhine with its huge catchment area exhibit such a low parasite diversity and high dominance.

(Received February 8 1999)
(Revised March 18 1999)
(Accepted March 18 1999)

Key Words: Anguilla anguilla; parasites; acanthocephalans; Anguillicola crassus; diversity; richness.

c1 Corresponding author: Zoologisches Institut, Ökologie/Parasitologie, Gebäude 30.43, Universität Karlsruhe, Kaiserstrasse 12, 76128 Karlsruhe, Germany. Tel: +49 721 6082701. Fax: +49 721 6087655. E-mail: