Strongyloides spp., parasitic nematodes of humans and many other terrestrial vertebrates, display an unusual heterogonic lifecycle involving alternating parasitic and free-living adult reproductive stages. A number of other genera have similar lifecycles, but their relationships to Strongyloides have not been clarified. We have inferred a phylogeny of 12 species of Strongyloides, Parastrongyloides, Rhabdias and Rhabditophanes using small subunit ribosomal RNA gene (SSU rDNA) sequences. The lineage leading to Strongyloides appears to have arisen within parasites of terrestrial invertebrates. Inferred lifecycle evolution was particularly dynamic within these nematodes. Importantly, the free-living Rhabditophanes sp. KR3021 is placed within a clade of parasitic taxa, suggesting that this species may represent a reversion to a non-parasitic lifecycle. Species within the genus Strongyloides are very closely related, despite the disparity of host species parasitised. The highly pathogenic human parasite Strongyloides fuelleborni kelleyi is not supported as a subspecies of the primate parasite S. fuelleborni fuelleborni, but is most likely derived from a local zoonotic source. © 2002 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Molecular phylogeny
- Rhabditophanes ribosomal RNA