Miss Eleanor Sherrard-Smith
I began a PhD in October 2009, supervised by Dr Jo Cable and Dr Liz Chadwick. My research follows the discovery of two species of digenean parasite in otter gall bladders, thought to be new to the UK. Pseudamphistomum truncatum was discovered by Vic Simpson (Simpson et al., 2005) in otters from Somerset, and Metorchis albidus was found subsequently at Cardiff University Otter Project (Sherrard-Smith et al., 2009). Both parasites have a complex life cycle utilising a snail and then a fish host before entering the definitive host e.g. the otter.
The distribution of the parasites will be tracked by screening otter gall bladders to look for the adult trematodes (otters found dead in England and Wales are collected as part Cardiff University Otter Project, see www.otterproject.cf.ac.uk). Specimens found will be used to develop species specific molecular primers for the mtDNA COX3 region. This will also allow us to look at the genetic variation in the parasites and attempt to identify source populations, as well as utilising them as screening tools to apply to potential intermediate hosts (currently unknown in the UK). A broad survey of snail and trematode fauna in rivers in South Wales will be conducted, and (in collaboration with the Environment Agency and CEFAS) fish will be screened for encysted parasites.
This is an exciting opportunity to look at two parasites believed to have only recently been introduced to the UK and study how a parasitic species can spread across an island.