Effect of starvation on parasite-induced mortality in a freshwater snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum)
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The level of host exploitation is expected, under theory, to be selected to maximise (subject to constraints) the lifetime reproductive success of the parasite. Here we studied the effect of two castrating trematode species on their intermediate snail host, Potamopyrgus antipodarum. One of the trematode species, Microphallus sp., encysts in the snail host and the encysted larvae “hatch” following ingestion of infected snails by birds. The other species, Notocotylus gippyensis, by contrast, releases swimming larvae; ingestion of the snail host is not required for, and does not aid, transmission to the final host. We isolated field-collected snails for 3 months in the laboratory, and followed the survival of infected and uninfected snails under two conditions: not fed and fed ad libitum. Mortality of the infected hosts was higher than mortality of the uninfected ones, but the response to starvation treatment was parasite species specific. N. gippyensis induced significantly higher mortality in starved snails than did Microphallus. Based on these results, we suggest that host exploitation by different species of trematodes may depend on the type of transmission. Encysting in the snail host may select for a reduced rate of host exploitation so as to increase the probability of transmission to the final host.
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