Intrapopulational distribution of Meiogymnophallus minutus (Digenea, Gymnophallidae) infections in its first and second intermediate host
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Host size and age are generally assumed to play a pivotal role in digenean trematode infection patterns, accounting for much of the variation found within intermediate host populations. However, knowledge is based on a limited number of studied host–parasite systems. We investigated the shell length class distribution of Meiogymnophallus minutus infections within populations of the first intermediate host Scrobicularia plana and second intermediate host Cerastoderma edule. Infections occurred very early in the life of the two intermediate hosts. Both prevalence and intensity of infections increased with host shell length and displayed extremely high values amongst large individuals. Whilst metacercarial infection patterns in juvenile C. edule could be best explained by differences in host shell length, in adult cockles, the effect of host age on infection levels prevailed. The microsporidian hyperparasite Unikaryon legeri, occurring in the metacercarial stage of M. minutus, was particularly abundant in aged cockles, strongly influencing infection patterns of the gymnophallid. Our results are consistent with the intrapopulational distribution reported from other digenean trematode parasites. The relative influence of both host size and age and the underlying mechanisms as well as the impact of hyperparasitism on M. minutus infection patterns are discussed.
KeywordsIntermediate Host Shell Length Digestive Gland Infection Level Primary Host
Jan Fermer received funding from The Embark Initiative, operated by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET).
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