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Parasitic mites influence fitness components of their host, the land snail Arianta arbustorum

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Parasites can influence the population dynamics of their hosts by affecting life-history strategies and behavior. The hematophageous mite Riccardoella limacum lives in the lung cavity of terrestrial gastropods. We used correlational and experimental approaches to investigate the influence of parasite infection on the behavior and life-history traits of the simultaneously hermaphroditic land snail Arianta arbustorum, a common host of R. limacum. Naturally infected individuals of A. arbustorum, collected in the wild, showed a decreased activity compared with uninfected snails. The reproductive output, expressed as the number of eggs deposited in a reproductive season, was reduced in mite-infected hosts. However, the hatching success of the eggs laid by parasitized snails was slightly higher than that of uninfected individuals. We also examined winter survival in 361 adults of A. arbustorum collected from four natural populations. The prevalence of mite infection ranged from 44.8% to 70.1% in three populations (snails in the fourth population were not infected). Winter survival was reduced in infected snails in two out of three populations. Furthermore, experimentally infected snails from an uninfected population showed a reduced winter survival compared with control snails. Our results indicate that parasite pressure imposed by members of R. limacum may influence life history in A. arbustorum.
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Keywords: life history; reproduction; survival; terrestrial gastropod

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Environmental Sciences, Section of Conservation Biology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: 01 June 2008

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