Contracaecum rudolphii (s.l.) is a complex of sibling species with different genetic structure and ecological preference. This study reports the presence of specimens of Contracaecum rudolphii (s.l.) from sedentary and wintering cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) from the pre-mountain area of the Alps in Northern Italy, an important crossroads for most of the bird migration routes. A total of 48 specimens of cormorants collected from two adjacent freshwater habitats were analysed and C. rudolphii nematodes were retrieved in 100% of the examined specimens. A subsamples of 115 C. rudolphii individuals were genetically characterized and found to belong to the sibling species C. rudolphii B (n = 90) and C. rudolphii A (n = 25). C. rudolphii B were retrieved from both locations and included adults as well as larvae, while only adults of C. rudolphii A were detected, and in just one location. As expected for a freshwater environment, C. rudolphii B constitutes the largest sibling fraction, indicating that this likely is the endemic species, while cormorants originating from the breeding brackish lagoons and marine coastal environments of central and northern Europe could have brought C. rudolphii A from their breeding sites or migration stopovers.
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