The gastrointestinal nematodes of plains and Grevy's zebras: Phylogenetic relationships and host specificity

Kaia J. Tombak, Christina B. Hansen, John M. Kinsella, Johan Pansu, Robert M. Pringle, Daniel I. Rubenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Equids are chronically infected with parasitic strongyle nematodes. There is a rich literature on horse strongyles, but they are difficult to identify morphologically and genetic studies on strongyles infecting other equid species are few, hampering studies of host specificity. We sequenced expelled worms from two sympatric zebra species in central Kenya to expand the strongyle phylogeny and used DNA metabarcoding on faecal samples to genetically characterize zebra nemabiomes for the first time. We generated sequences for several species new to public genetic reference databases, all of which are typical strongyles in wild zebras (i.e., the three species of Cylindropharynx and Cyathostomum montgomeryi), and identified their closest relatives. We also discovered an apparent fungus infecting a quarter of the expelled Crossocephalus viviparus worms, a hyperabundant nematode species in the family Atractidae, hinting at the possibility that zebra host-parasite dynamics may involve a zebra-fungus mutualism. The two zebra species had similar nemabiomes; we found a complete overlap in the list of nematode species they carry and very similar prevalence (i.e., proportion of hosts infected) for the different nematode species. Our study suggests limited host-specificity in zebra strongyles and high potential for transmission between the plains zebra and the endangered Grevy's zebra.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Parasitology


  • DNA metabarcoding
  • Equid nemabiome
  • Equid parasitology
  • Strongyle phylogeny
  • Zebra nematodes


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