Fishes are the vertebrate group with the largest number of parasite-host associations, having associations with parasites from different phyla and even so from different kingdoms. Among the main groups of parasites, crustaceans stand out as one of the most diverse with estimates of over 5.000 parasite species. In Brazil, Ergasilidae (Copepoda) is currently the richest family of fish parasitic crustacean with over 60 species and 18 genera. Although small in size, these copepods can cause severe damages to their host's tissues and in some situations can cause an increase in the mortality rate of both natural and cultivated host populations. Despite its importance, our current knowledge about this family is still scarce since few fish species (less than 10%) and localities had their ergasilids fauna evaluated. Ergasilidae taxonomy is traditionally done through morphological studies. On the other hand, there are few studies with molecular approaches to identify species or to propose phylogenetic hypotheses for this group. Thus, the present project aims to study, based on morphological and molecular data, the diversity and systematic of ergasilids parasites from 10 fish species (Astyanax paranae, Astyanax lacustris, Characidium schubarti, Galeocharax gulo, Gymnotus sylvius, Imparfinis mirini, Phalloceros harpagos, Pimelodella avanhandavae, Schizodon nasutus, and Steindachnerina insculpta) in Pardo River, Middle Paranapanema, São Paulo State. This river is part of the Pardo River Basin (BHRP in Portuguese) and is inserted in the Corumbataí-Botucatu-Tejupá Environmental Protection Area, which aims to protect its natural resources. Although it is considered an important river, parasitic crustacean fauna has never been studied in fishes from this river. For the study, morphological analyses will be developed together with molecular analyses using ribosomal (18S and 28S) and mitochondrial markers (COI). The results will be important to have a better understanding of the community structure, taxonomy, biogeography, systematics and phylogeny of Ergasilidae in this still little explored environment of the Middle Paranapanema.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: