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Since the 1990s, possibly earlier, large numbers of Asian swamp eels (Synbranchidae: Monopterus spp.), some wild-caught, have been imported live from various countries in Asia and sold in ethnic food markets in cities throughout the USA and parts of Canada. Such markets are the likely introduction pathway of some, perhaps most, of the five known wild populations of Asian swamp eels present in the continental United States. This paper presents results of a pilot study intended to gather baseline data on the occurrence and abundance of internal macroparasites infecting swamp eels imported from Asia to North American retail food markets. These data are important in assessing the potential role that imported swamp eels may play as possible vectors of non-native parasites. Examination of the gastrointestinal tracts and associated tissues of 19 adult-sized swamp eels—identified as M. albus “Clade C”—imported from Vietnam and present in a U.S. retail food market revealed that 18 (95%) contained macroparasites. The 394 individual parasites recovered included a mix of nematodes, acanthocephalans, cestodes, digeneans, and pentastomes. The findings raise concern because of the likelihood that some parasites infecting market swamp eels imported from Asia are themselves Asian taxa, some possibly new to North America. The ecological risk is exacerbated because swamp eels sold in food markets are occasionally retained live by customers and a few reportedly released into the wild. For comparative purposes, M. albus “Clade C” swamp eels from a non-native population in Florida (USA) were also examined and most (84%) were found to be infected with internal macroparasites. The current level of analysis does not allow us to confirm whether these are non-native parasites.
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Nico, Leo G.; Sharp, Paul; and Collins, Timothy M., "Imported Asian swamp eels (Synbranchidae: Monopterus ) in North American live food markets: Potential vectors of non-native parasites" (2011). Department of Biological Sciences. 114.
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