Exploring the diversity and systematics of parasites exploiting marine fishes in the Indo-West Pacific
The Marine Parasitology Research Laboratory is based at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. We study biodiversity, taxonomy, host-specificty, biogeography and life-history of parasitic animals, mainly of wild marine fishes in the Indo-Pacific region. We work especially with the trematodes, a super-rich group of parasitic flatworms. Our research emphasises a modern, integrated approach to taxonomy; we seek to make conclusions based on multiple lines of evidence including DNA sequence data.
Latest from the Lab
Congratulations Dr Diaz
Once again, another of our PhD students has finished and left the Marine Parasitology Laboratory. Dr Pablo Diaz joined the lab back in 2013, completing a MPhil on faustulid trematodes infecting corallivorous fishes. He continued this research theme into his PhD, during which he published six papers and described nine species of faustulids from the Tropical Indo-west Pacific. Pablo’s work has also led to major shifts in our understanding of faustulid systematics. Pablo has left the MPL and taken up a position at SeaWorld (on the Gold Coast), working with jellyfish. We wish Pablo luck in his future endeavours and look forward to working on jellyfish parasites with him soon!
Congratulations Dr Martin
Another fantastic student of the Marine Parasitology Laboratory has become a Dr! Congratulations to Dr Storm Martin for completing such a wonderful PhD. Storm joined our lab for an Honours program back in 2013, working on the genus Hamacreadium infecting snappers on the Great Barrier Reef. In 2015 he started his PhD in the MPL, undertaking a taxonomic and phylogenetic study of the largest trematode family, the Opecoelidae. Fixing the systematics of this family was a monumental task, and Storm’s efforts were incredibly successful. During his PhD he published 10 papers, describing 20 new species and 9 new genera. Storm also transformed our understanding of the phylogeny of the Opecoelidae, making sweeping changes to the family classification and proposing several new subfamilies. We wish Storm all the best in his taxonomic career, one we already know will be extremely productive.
Heron Island, August
In August Nick, Berilin, Dylan, Clarisse, Storm and Scott spent a very successful two weeks at Heron Island Research Station on the southern Great Barrier Reef. Nick collected plenty of monorchiid trematodes from haemulids, Clarisse made progress on both her plankton and bivesiculid studies, and Scott collected several species of blood flukes for the labs new ABRS funded project. It was also very promising start for our newest PhD student; Berilin collected a wide range of parasites (trematodes, monogeneans and copepods) from a variety of damselfishes. As usual Storm left the trip with the biggest bag of samples, despite joining the trip to help everyone else with their projects! Now comes the fun part of identifying all these worms!
Welcome new students!
The Marine Parasitology Laboratory is pleased to welcome two new PhD students. Berilin Duong started her PhD with us in July, studying the parasites of damselfishes of the Tropical Indo-west Pacific. Anyone who has spent time on the reef knows how many damselfish are out there, and given Berilin is looking at several parasite groups, we think she has a lot of work ahead of her! Also joining the lab in October is Dylan Corner. After a successful Honours program with our lab, Dylan will be back to undertake a study on the life-cycles and biodiversity of pathogenic blood flukes infecting Australian marine turtles. This study is a very important part of the labs new ABRS funded grant, awarded to Scott and Tom. Berilin and Dylan have both proven themselves to be fantastic students during their Honours programs, and we know they will be up to the challenge!
Congratulations Dr Dan
A hearty congratulations to Dr Dan Huston for being awarded his PhD! Dan joined us back in 2015, adding a Texan flair to the lab with his cowboy boots and southern drawl. Dan's work focused on the taxonomy, phylogeny and life histories of trematodes infecting herbivorous marine fishes. He was very successful in this project, publishing 11 papers on a range of trematode families and describing 12 new species, seven new genera and a new subfamily. Dan also has a knack for discovering trematode life-cycles, elucidating several during his PhD and still working on several more. Dan has recently left Brisbane and the MPL, now working with Prof Barbara Nowak (UTas) and Dr Nathan Bott (RMIT) at the University of Tasmania. We wish Dan all the best for his future career in parasite taxonomy! Check out more about Dan's work on his blog.
Lab Down Under featured article: a new species of Gyliauchenidae from an unexpected host
Science journalist Miklos Bolza has featured recent research from the lab at The Lab Down Under. The article covers Dan Huston's significant discovery and description of a new species of gyliauchenidae, Endochortophagus protoporus from the western buffalo bream Kyphsus cornellii. Members of the closely related Enenteridae exploit kyphosid fishes, but this is the first occurrence of a gyliauchenid in such a fish. Check out the linked article to wonder along with Dan as to why we don't see co-infections of these two families more often. The Lab Down Under.
The Southern Tough-guy Worm makes Top 10 species for 2018
Well, today is Taxonomist Appreciation day! And, this year, one of our cuter worms, Parallelolebes virilis, has made the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) top ten new species for 2018 list! Tom collected this worm during a trip to Tasmania in 1999, from the beautiful horseshoe leatherjacket, Meuschenia hippocrepis, which he fished up from a jetty. The specimens languished in the lab for almost two decades, until we finally characterised and published them last year in an effort led by Storm and lab alumnus Dalisay Ribu. This species belongs to a group of large, fleshy opecoelids which are otherwise known only from pufferfishes and porcupinefishes. Also known as the southern tough-guy worm, the species name 'virilis' is the Latin diminutive for manly or masculine, because, at about 1 mm in length, this is the smallest species in the group, but the only one to get about in a leatherjacket. Like its host, it is most likely a endemic to southern Australian waters. Check out the rest of the WoRMS top ten list here. Published in Systematic Parasitology here.
Lizard Island field trip, November
November saw a successful, 12 day field expedition to the beautiful Lizard Island on the northern Great Barrier Reef. Scott, Nick, Clarisse and Dylan managed to collect large numbers of monorchiid trematodes from sweetlips and goatfishes for Nick's work, many of which are likely species new to science! They also got to tow for plankton for the first time in the area. Clarisse confirmed the presence of known planktonic molluscan hosts for her hemiuroid parasites, as well as the presence of trematode infections in other planktonic intermediate hosts! Good job everyone!
Several of our students have been fortunate enough to receive generous support for their studies from the Holsworth Endowment. This month marks 30 years since the award was first established. To commerate the occasion and express our gratitude to Dr Bill and Carol Holsworth, Storm and Dan presented Bill with a framed illustration of two new species belonging to a new genus they named Holsworthotrema. You can read more about the presentation here.
SASB ECR Excellence in Systematics Award
Congratulations to Scott for receiving the 2018 Society of Australian Systematic Biologists Early Career Research Excellence Award! Scott has a had a fantastic taxonomic output over the last nine years, having described 90 new species, 18 genera, 5 subfamilies and 1 family, and is ranked fourth most productive trematode taxonomist globally by the World Register of Marine Species. His work has been a broad contribution, including studies on members of 19 trematode families and three cestode orders, and has focused on the integration of morphological and molecular data in systematics studies. See more about the award at https://www.sasb.org.au/honorific-awards and learn more about this fantastic society at https://www.sasb.org.au/about.
Wonderful news for Russell', who has now been awarded his PhD from the University of Queensland. Russell' has been involved with the MPL since 2009 as an honours student. He commenced his PhD in 2014, studying the blood flukes (Family Aporocotylidae) of tetraodontiform fishes (puffers, triggerfishes and allies). His studies have greatly advanced our understanding of the biodiversity and phylogenetic systematics of blood flukes in Australian fishes, and he has published an impressive 13 papers on a range of trematode and nematode taxa. Check out his work at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Russell_Yong. Rusty has described 13 new species, and three new genera and recently had a trematode species named after him (Heterobucephalopsis yongi), in honour of his contribution to Australian trematode systematics. Russell' has a promising taxonomic career ahead of him and, although he isn't leaving us just yet, everyone at the MPL wishes him all the best in his future endeavours.
Worms in corals
The latest article from the lab, which has just been published in the International Journal for Parasitology. This study focused on Podocotyloides stenometra, an enigmatic opecoelid parasite that infects butterflyfishes as adults and anthozoan corals as an intermediate host; this is only trematode known species to use this life cycle strategy. Storm collected new material from Hawaii and French Polynesia and using genetic data showed that P. stenometra actually represents a complex of species that did not phylogenetically belong to any known opecoelid subfamily. In the paper Storm re-described Podocotyloides stenometra and proposed four new species, a new genus (Polypipapiliotrema) for the five species, and a new subfamily (Polypipapiliotrematinae). The paper has a great discussion of the drivers of the diversification and richness of the Opecoelidae (the largest of the trematode families), and if you want to learn more you can check out the original article at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002075191830242X or a feature in the Parasite of the Day blog at http://dailyparasite.blogspot.com/2019/01/polypipapiliotrema-stenometra.html