The biogeography of the caribou lungworm, Varestrongylus eleguneniensis (Nematoda: Protostrongylidae) across northern North America

Guilherme G Verocai, Eric P Hoberg, Manon Simard, Kimberlee B Beckmen, Marco Musiani, Sam Wasser, Christine Cuyler, Micheline Manseau, Umer N Chaudhry, Cyntia K Kashivakura, John S Gilleard, Susan J Kutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Varestrongylus eleguneniensis (Nematoda; Protostrongylidae) is a recently described species of lungworm that infects caribou (Rangifer tarandus), muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) and moose (Alces americanus) across northern North America. Herein we explore the geographic distribution of V. eleguneniensis through geographically extensive sampling and discuss the biogeography of this multi-host parasite. We analyzed fecal samples of three caribou subspecies (n = 1485), two muskox subspecies (n = 159), and two moose subspecies (n = 264) from across northern North America. Protostrongylid dorsal-spined larvae (DSL) were found in 23.8%, 73.6%, and 4.2% of these ungulates, respectively. A portion of recovered DSL were identified by genetic analyses of the ITS-2 region of the nuclear rDNA or the cytochrome oxidase c subunit I (COI) region of the mtDNA. We found V. eleguneniensis widely distributed among caribou and muskox populations across most of their geographic prange in North America but it was rare in moose. Parelaphostrongylus andersoni was present in caribou and moose and we provide new geographic records for this species. This study provides a substantial expansion of the knowledge defining the current distribution and biogeography of protostrongylid nematodes in northern ungulates. Insights about the host and geographic range of V. eleguneniensis can serve as a geographically extensive baseline for monitoring current distribution and in anticipating future biogeographic scenarios under a regime of accelerating climate and anthropogenic perturbation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Early online date8 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2020


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