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Larval trematode infections and spatial distributions of snails

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The hypothesis that infecting trematodes influence the spatial distribution of the estuarine snail Ilyanassa obsoleta was tested. This work was conducted in the Savages Ditch habitat, Rehoboth Bay, DE, USA, which has an essentially flat, sandy-mud bottom bordered by saltmarsh shorelines and many infected snails. In 1996, two groups of snails were individually marked and released from one location after being screened for trematode infections. One group, transplanted from sites where snails tended not to be infected, consisted of snails that tested as uninfected. The other group consisted of snails native to Savages Ditch. Species of trematode carried by each snail was recorded. Marked snails were found and their positions were recorded until 2001. Snails were in five infection categories: (1) not infected, and infected with (2) Himasthla quissetensis, or (3) Lepocreadium setiferoides or (4) Zoogonus rubellus, or (5) with both H. quissetensis and Z. rubellus. The results show that the spatial distributions of snails depended on whether or not they were infected and, if infected, on which trematode species they carried. To complete life cycles, these parasites must accomplish transmission from the first (the snail) to the second intermediate hosts by short-lived, swimming cercariae. These data do not allow resolution of why snails distributed as they did, but sighting distributions of infected snails can be related to distributions of second hosts and it is proposed that parasites engender host snail distributions that improve chances of transmission.

Keywords: behavior modification; estuary; gastropod; parasite

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: College of Marine and Earth Studies, University of Delaware, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2007


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