A monogenean parasite reveals the widespread translocation of the African clawed frog in its native range.

Published online
28 Feb 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Schoeman, A. L. & Preez, L. H. du & Kmentová, N. & Vanhove, M. P. M.
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Publication language
Southern Africa


The management of bio-invasions relies upon the development of methods to trace their origin and expansion. Cointroduced parasites, especially monogenean flatworms, are ideal tags for the movement of their hosts due to their short generations, direct life cycles and host specificity. However, they are yet to be applied to trace the intraspecific movement of host lineages in their native ranges.As proof of this concept, we conducted a comparative phylogeographic analysis based upon two mitochondrial markers of a globally invasive frog Xenopus laevis and its monogenean parasite Protopolystoma xenopodis in its native range in southern Africa and invasive range in Europe. Translocation of lineages was largely masked in the frog's phylogeography. However, incongruent links between host and parasite phylogeography indicated host switches from one host lineage to another after these were brought into contact in the native range. Thus, past translocation of host lineages is revealed by the invasion success of its cointroduced parasite lineage. This study demonstrates that parasite data can serve as an independent line of evidence in invasion biology, also on the intraspecific level, shedding light on previously undetected invasion dynamics. Based upon the distribution of these invasive parasite lineages, we infer that there is widespread anthropogenic translocation of this frog, not only via official export routes, but also facilitated by the frog's use as live bait by angling communities. Synthesis and applications. Data from cointroduced, host-specific parasites, as tags for translocation, can add value to investigations in invasion biology and conservation. A better understanding of the translocation history and resulting genetic mixing of host and parasite lineages in the native range can shed light on the genetic make-up of parasite assemblages cointroduced to the invasive range. Knowledge of the intraspecific movement of different lineages of animals in their native ranges also has conservation implications, since contact between divergent lineages of hosts and parasites can facilitate host switches and altered parasite dynamics in both native and invasive populations. Therefore, we recommend the inclusion of parasite data as a more holistic approach to the invasion ecology of animals on the intraspecific level.

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