We have used a mitochondrial marker to explore the population genetics of an economically important parasite of sheep, Teladorsagia. We examined diversity within and between parasites from three very different host populations, as well as within and between individual hosts. One of our study populations, the Soay sheep on Hirta, St Kilda, is unusually isolated with no sheep having been introduced to the island since 1932. Worm haplotypes from Hirta were compared with those from two other host populations. Remarkably, despite its historical isolation the Hirta population shows similar levels of within-population diversity to the other study populations. No divergence between the three Teladorsagia populations was found, consistent with gene flow between the populations. The high diversity within Teladorsagia populations provides compelling evidence that this variability is a general feature of parasitic nematode populations. Such diversity may be caused by high effective population size, coupled with an increased mutation rate for mtDNA, which has important implications for the spread of anthelmintic resistance in nematode populations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases
- Population genetics