The biological control of snail intermediate hosts of schistosomiasis by fish
- Cite this article as:
- Slootweg, R., Malek, E.A. & McCullough, F.S. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (1994) 4: 67. doi:10.1007/BF00043261
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The use of molluscivorous fish for biological control of snail intermediate hosts of schistosomiasis is a regularly reappearing theme in the literature on schistosomiasis control. The effectiveness of this control method has not yet been demonstrated, and conclusive field evidence is lacking. In this article the literature on snail control by fish is critically reviewed. Special attention is paid to the cichlid fish Astatoreochromis alluaudi that has been used in well-documented field trials in Kenya and Cameroon. After some small initial success, after a longer period the fish appeared to be ineffective in snail control. Moreover, the fish reproduces at a pace too slow to be of use in large-scale biocontrol trials. Laboratory observations on foraging behaviour and anatomy of the fish give essential cues to explain the failure of the fish in snail control. An observed reduction in the fishes' pharyngeal jaw apparatus, used to crush snails shells, results in a lower profitability of snails. As predicted by a simple foraging model, the prey preference of the fish shifts towards other more profitable prey items, such as benthic and pelagic macrofauna. Although eradication of snails by fish will not be feasible in most cases, the role of natural predators of snails cannot be neglected, and may still be of importance in integrated control efforts.