Echinostoma trivolvis (Digenea: Echinostomatidae) second intermediate host preference matches host suitability
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- Wojdak, J.M., Clay, L., Moore, S. et al. Parasitol Res (2013) 112: 799. doi:10.1007/s00436-012-3203-4
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Many trematodes infect a single mollusk species as their first intermediate host, and then infect a variety of second intermediate host species. Determining the factors that shape host specificity is an important step towards understanding trematode infection dynamics. Toward this end, we studied two pond snails (Physa gyrina and Helisoma trivolvis) that can be infected as second intermediate hosts by the trematode Echinostoma trivolvis lineage a (ETa). We performed laboratory preference trials with ETa cercariae in the presence of both snail species and also characterized host suitability by quantifying encystment and excystment success for each host species alone. We tested the prediction that trematodes might preferentially infect species other than their obligate first intermediate host (in this case, H. trivolvis) as second intermediate hosts to avoid potentially greater host mortality associated with residing in first intermediate hosts. In our experiments, ETa had roughly equivalent encystment success in Helisoma and Physa snails, but greater excystment success in Physa, when offered each species in isolation. Also, the presence of the symbiotic oligochaete Chaetogaster limnaei in a subset of Helisoma snails reduced encystment success in those individuals. When both hosts were present, we found dramatically reduced infection prevalence and intensity in Helisoma—ETa cercariae strongly preferred Physa. Thus, the presence of either an alternative host, or a predator of free-living parasites, offered protection for Helisoma snails from E. trivolvis lineage a infection.