A loss of fecundity in a population of mudsnails Hydrobia ventrosa caused by larval trematodes does not measurably affect host population equilibrium level.

Research paper by S S Kube, J J Kube, A A Bick

Indexed on: 24 Jan '06Published on: 24 Jan '06Published in: Parasitology


Host snail demography and trematode parasitism were followed for one host generation in a shallow brackish lagoon of the western Baltic Sea. In addition, a laboratory experiment was simultaneously conducted to quantify the effects of parasitic infection on host fecundity. Hydrobia ventrosa of the cohort of 1996 had a maximum life-span of up to 2 years and reproduced between May and November of their second calendar year in 1997. Snails died after reproduction. The first trematode infections appeared in May 1997 when the snails started to mature. Total trematode prevalence peaked in summer and declined during winter to the lowest level in early spring 1998. Eight taxa of larval trematodes were found. Egg production of females with trematode infections was significantly reduced. Among females with pre-patent infections, about 20% were still able to produce eggs. Among females with patent infections merely 9% could lay eggs, compared to an average of about 51% in uninfected females. Taking into account a summer prevalence of about 25%, parasitic infections caused an overall reduction in egg production of the snail host population of about 15%. The reduction in host fecundity as a result of larval trematode infection did not measurably affect the population dynamics of H. ventrosa, because other environmental factors, especially winter severity and available food supply, were concluded to be much more relevant.