Larval helminths in the invasive American brine shrimp Artemia franciscana throughout its annual cycle
One of the best examples of rapid displacement of native species by an invader is the eradication of native Artemia salina and A. parthenogenetica in the Mediterranean by the introduced American A. franciscana. Previous studies based on sampling from limited time periods suggest that the success of the American species as a competitor may be due partly to different parasite burden, since native Artemia spp. have high cestode infection rates regulating their density. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that the helminth infection in A. franciscana in its invasive range is low throughout its annual life cycle. Samples of A. franciscana were collected every second month from La Tapa saltern (Andalusia) during one year. Five helminth species were recorded: cestodes Flamingolepis liguloides, F. flamingo, Gynandrotaenia stammeri (all flamingo parasites), Eurycestusavoceti (a shorebird parasite) and larval spirurids of the Acuariinae (the first record of nematodes in Artemia). The overall infection rate was low, with total prevalence 5.9% and prevalence of individual parasite species between 0.2 and 3.2%. The mean abundance of helminths was 0.005–0.155 (av. 0.068), 5–13 times lower than in native congeners. Waterbird counts indicate that the low infection rates cannot be explained by lack of definitive hosts. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that helminths have no regulating effect on the invasive brine shrimp in the Mediterranean. The replacement of the native populations by the invader can be partially explained by a competition mediated by parasites/predators through a differential impact on host fitness.