Are Geckos Paratenic Hosts for Caribbean Island Acanthocephalans? Evidence from Gonatodes antillensis and a Global Review of Squamate Reptiles Acting as Transport Hosts.
It is well known that reptiles can act as paratenic hosts for parasites that use mammals as their definitive hosts. However, studies of potential paratenic hosts in the Caribbean have been temporally restricted to only diurnal species of lizards, thereby neglecting a dominant component of the nocturnal reptilian community: geckos. Many gecko species are human commensals with activity periods that overlap temporally with those of domestic cats, making them prime candidates as potential transport hosts for cat parasites. However, no studies have reported geckos as paratenic hosts for felid parasites on any Caribbean island. Here we report the first records of subcutaneous oligacanthorhynchid cystacanths on the Venezuelan Coastal Clawed Gecko (Gonatodes antillensis) based on specimens collected in Curaçao and Bonaire. The cysts were identified as belonging to the genus Oncicola, likely those of Oncicola venezuelensis. This study reports these geckos as a new host record for oligacanthorhynchid cystacanths, as well as Curaçao and Bonaire as new geographic locales for these acanthocephalan parasites. We additionally provide a review of saurian cystacanths, comparing the restricted taxonomic focus of transport hosts in Caribbean islands to the distribution of paratenic squamate hosts both in the Neotropics and globally. We find evidence that the ability of squamate reptiles to act as transport hosts is a pervasive feature across their Tree of Life, suggesting that these animals may serve as important vectors for transporting parasites between intermediate and definitive hosts.