Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of the commensal Temnocephala iheringi (Platyhelminthes: Temnocephalidae) among the southernmost populations of the apple snail Pomacea canaliculata (Mollusca: Ampullariidae)
Temnocephala iheringi is the most common temnocephalan inhabiting the mantle cavity of the apple snail Pomacea canaliculata, a freshwater neotropical gastropod that has become a serious rice pest in Southeastern Asia. T. iheringi has been recorded from Mato Grosso (Brazil) to water bodies associated with the Río de la Plata river (Argentina). During an extensive survey in the southern limit of the native area of P.␣canaliculata the presence of T. iheringi eggs was recorded in several apple snail populations, extending the known distribution of the commensal more than 400 km southwards. The aim of this study was to understand the factors affecting the distribution and abundance of T. iheringi among populations of P.␣canaliculata. Only 23% of the apple snail populations inhabiting streams harboured temnocephalans while the occurrence among lentic ones was 71%. T. iheringi was found mostly in populations of apple snails living in non-alkaline sites and where snails attaining sizes larger than 4 cm were very common. The prevalence of the temnocephalans in lentic populations was higher than 90%. The number of eggs on the shell (not including the umbilicus) ranged between 0 and 470 and was different among populations of P.␣canaliculata. The prevalence and number of eggs were lower in the lotic populations, except for a stream population immediately downstream of a lake with commensals. There was no difference between males and females of P. canaliculata neither in the prevalence nor in the number of eggs on the shell. The southernmost population of the world of P. canaliculata harbours commensals that tolerate cold winter water temperatures (4–5 °C) as well as its host. On the other hand, T. iheringi was found only in sites with bicarbonate concentrations lower than 6.6 meq l−1, suggesting that the tolerance of the commensal is very much lower than that of the apple snail (up to 9.95 meq l−1). The number of worms inside each snail or the life history variation of P. canaliculata could explain the influence of the size of the snails on the occurrence of T. iheringi. In the big-sized snails, where the number of commensals is higher, the probability of survival of at least one worm is also higher, specially during the hibernation period, when crawling and feeding are null and snails remain buried. On the other hand, P. canaliculata snails from lentic populations are generally bigger and mostly iteroparous, while those inhabiting streams are smaller and semelparous. In these populations the snails have access to mate only with snails of their same cohort, while in iteroparous populations they can copulate with individuals of other cohorts, allowing the inter-generation transmission of worms and the long term persistence of the population of commensals.
spatial distribution commensal worms TemnocephalaPomaceaSouthern Pampas