Corynosoma cetaceum in the stomach of Franciscanas, pontoporia blainvillei (Cetacea): an exceptional case of habitat selection by an Acanthocephalan

Adult acanthocephalans are typically found in the intestine of vertebrates, where they can readily absorb nutrients. However, Corynosoma cetaceum has been frequently reported in the stomach of cetaceans from the Southern Hemisphere. The ecological significance of this habitat was investigated by examining data on number, sex ratio, maturity status, biomass, and fecundity of C. cetaceum in different parts of the digestive tract of 44 franciscanas Pontoporia blainvillei. Individual C. cetaceum occurred in the pyloric stomach (PS) and, to lesser degrees, in the duodenal ampulla (DA) and the main stomach (MS). Females outnumbered males in all chambers, although the sex ratio was closer to 1:1 in the MS; there also was a higher proportion of nongravid females, with a smaller biomass in the MS than in the PS and the DA. This evidence suggests that cystacanths are released from prey tissues in the MS, where entire prey are reduced to semi-fluid chyme. The 3 chambers harbored gravid females that did not differ significantly in mean biomass or fecundity. The maturity status of females was nearly identical between the PS and the DA. In the MS, the higher proportion of non-gravid females is probably due to the occurrence of newly recruited females to this site. Mean biomass and fecundity of gravid females covaried strongly and positively among chambers within hosts. These results suggest that there are no major differences between the 3 chambers with respect to the suitability for reproduction by C. cetaceum. However, although the MS is the largest chamber, it harbored the smallest number of gravid females. Interestingly, worms were largely restricted to the aboral portion of the MS, a sheltered region where a concentration of chyme, and thus nutrient availability, likely occurs. Linear distribution differences of gravid female C. cetaceum at increasing intensities suggest that reproductive females occupy chambers according to available space. In summary, the stomach should be considered the main habitat for C. cetaceum. The choice of this habitat is puzzling because other Corynosoma species occur in the intestine, and because the stomach of cetaceans is not an absorptive site.
Bibliographic reference
AZNAR AVENDAÑO, Francisco Javier ; Bush, A. O. ; Balbuena Diaz-Pines, Juan Antonio ; Raga Esteve, Juan Antonio (2001). Corynosoma cetaceum in the stomach of Franciscanas, pontoporia blainvillei (Cetacea): an exceptional case of habitat selection by an Acanthocephalan. Journal of Parasitology, vol. 87, no. 3, p. 536–541