Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen

, Volume 37, Issue 1–4, pp 185–199 | Cite as

Impact of trematode parasitism on the fauna of a North Sea tidal flat

  • G. Lauckner


The impact of larval trematodes on the fauna of a North Sea tidal flat is considered at the individual and at the population level, depicting the digenean parasites of the common periwinkle,Littorina littorea, and their life cycles, as an example. On the German North Sea coast,L. littorea is first intermediate host for 6 larval trematodes representing 6 digenean families —Cryptocotyle lingua (Heterophyidae),Himasthla elongata (Echinostomatidae),Renicola roscovita (Renicolidae),Microphallus pygmaeus (Microphallidae),Podocotyle atomon (Opecoelidae) andCercaria lebouri (Notocotylidae). All exceptP. atomon utilize shore birds as final hosts; adultP. atomon parasitize in the intestine of teleosts, mainly pleuronectid flatfish. Second intermediate hosts ofC. lingua are various species of fish; the cercariae ofH. elongata encyst in molluscs and polychaetes, those ofR. roscovita in molluscs;M. pygmaeus has an abbreviated life cycle;C. lebouri encysts free on solid surfaces; and the fish trematodeP. atomon utilizes benthic crustaceans, mainly amphipods, as second intermediate hosts. On the tidal flats of the Königshafen (Sylt), up to 77% of the periwinkles have been found to be infested by larval trematodes. Maximum infestations in individual samples were 23% forC. lingua, 47% forH. elongata and 44% forR. roscovita. The digeneans cause complete ‘parasitic castration’ of their carriers and hence exclude a considerable proportion of the snails from the breeding population. Infestation reduces the longevity of affected hosts, and size-related, trematode-induced differential mortality causes changes in the normal size-frequency distribution of individual snail-age classes. Young flatfishPleuronectes platessa from the Königshafen are 100% infested with metacercariae ofC. lingua. Heavy infestation of the gills causes obstruction of blood vessels and respiratory impairment; metacercariae in the eyes and optic nerves cause visual and neurological disturbances. A single metacercaria is sufficient to kill a larval fish.Mytilus edulis andCardium (Cerastoderma) edule are 100% infested with metacercariae ofH. elongata. Heavy infestation impairs the byssus-thread production in mussels and affects the burrowing ability of cockles. Longevity and resistance to environmental — particularly thermal — stress are reduced in bivalves infested withH. elongata andR. roscovita. There is evidence that, in the study area, population size and age composition of the molluscs discussed are (indirectly) controlled by trematode parasites employing sea birds as final hosts, rather than directly by the predatory activities of these birds.

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Copyright information

© Biologische Anstalt Helgoland 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Lauckner
    • 1
  1. 1.Biologische Anstalt Helgoland (Litoralstation)List/SyltFederal Republic of Germany

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