, Volume 559, Issue 1, pp 455–461 | Cite as

Parasite Induced Summer Mortality in the Cockle Cerastoderma edule by the Trematode Gymnophallus choledochus

Primary Research Paper


In late summer 2004, a conspicuous cockle (Cerastoderma edule) mortality event was observed on a tidal flat in the northern Wadden Sea (North Sea, Germany) with many fresh valves and still living cockles lying on the sediment surface. To investigate whether trematode parasites utilizing the cockle as first or second intermediate host were involved in this mortality, buried and surfaced cockles were sampled and analyzed, and a laboratory experiment conducted. The field survey showed no statistical difference in intensity of parasites encysted in the foot of cockles. Three species of Himasthla utilizing the cockle as second intermediate host and known to impair the cockle’s burrowing ability were found in buried cockles with 148.4±111.1 metacercariae/foot and in surfaced cockles with 164.2±84.4. There was also no difference in infection levels of parasites utilizing the cockles as second intermediate host in other cockle tissues between buried and surfaced cockles. In contrast, surfaced cockles showed a ten times higher prevalence (71.0%) than buried cockles (7.4%) of the trematode Gymnophallus choledochus – a parasite utilizing the cockle as first (and second) intermediate host – filling almost the entire body cavity and eliminating gonad structures. In an aquarium experiment of 14 days, all cockles found buried on the tidal flat survived compared to only 23.3% found on the surface. This suggests G. choledochus to be a castrating agent and a serious mortality factor in adult cockle populations.


parasitism mortality castration Trematoda Bivalvia intertidal sand flat 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beukema, J. J. 1979Biomass and species richness of the macrobenthic animals living on a tidal flat area in the Dutch Wadden Sea: effects of a severe winterNetherlands Journal of Sea Research13203223Google Scholar
  2. Blanchet, H., Raymond, N., Montaudouin, X., Capdepuy, M., Bachelet, G. 2003Effects of digenean trematodes and heterotrophic bacteria on mortality and burying capability of the common cockle Cerastoderma edule (L.)Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology29389105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowers, E. A., Bartoli, P., Russel-Pinto, F., James, B. L. 1996The metacercariae of sibling species of Meigymnophallus, including M. rebecqui comb. Nov. (Digenea: Gymnophallidae), and their effects on closely related Cerastoderma host species (Mollusca: Bivalvia)Parasitology Research82505510PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Coustau, C., Robbins, I., Delay, B., Renaud, F., Mathieu, M. 1993The parasitic castration of the mussel Mytilus edulis by the trematode parasite Prosorhynchus squamatus: specificity and partial characterization of endogenous and parasite-induced anti-mitotic activitiesComparative Biochemistry and Physiology104229233Google Scholar
  5. Desclaux, C., Montaudouin, X., Bachelet, G. 2002Cockle emergence at the sediment surface: ‘favourization’ mechanism by digenean parasites?Diseases of Aquatic Organisms52137149PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Desclaux, C., Montaudouin, X., Bachelet, G. 2004Cockle (Cerastoderma edule) population mortality: the role of the digenean parasite Himasthla quissetensisMarine Ecology Progress Series279141150Google Scholar
  7. Gätje, C., Reise, K. 1998Ökosystem Wattenmeer, Austausch-, Transport- und StoffumwandlungsprozesseSpringerBerlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Jonsson, P., André, C. 1992Mass mortality of the bivalve Cerastoderma edule on the Swedish west coast caused by infestation with the Digenean trematode Cercaria cerastodermae IOphelia36151157Google Scholar
  9. Lauckner, G. 1971Zur Trematodenfauna der Herzmuscheln Cardium edule und Cardium lamarckiHelgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen22377400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lauckner, G. 1980Diseases of Mollusca: GastropodaKinne, O. eds. Diseases of Marine Animals Vol. I General Aspects, Protozoa to GastropodaJohn Wiley & SonsNew York311424Google Scholar
  11. Lauckner, G. 1983Diseases of Mollusca: BivalviaKinne, O. eds. Diseases of Marine Animals Vol. 2 Introduction, Bivalvia to ScaphopodaBiologische Anstalt HelgolandHamburg477961Google Scholar
  12. Loos-Frank, B. 1969Zur Kenntnis der gymnophalliden Trematoden des Nordseeraumes I. Die alternativen Zyklen von Gymnophallus choledochus Odhner, 1900Zeitschrift für Parasitenkunde32135156PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Mouritsen, K. N. 1997Crawling behaviour in the bivalve Macoma balthica: the parasite-manipulation hypothesis revisitedOikos79513520Google Scholar
  14. Mouritsen, K. N. 2002The parasite-induced surfacing behaviour in the cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi: a test of alternative hypothesis and identification of potential mechanismsParasitology124521528PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Mouritsen, K. N. 2004Intertidal facilitation and indirect effects: causes and consequences of crawling in the New Zealand cockleMarine Ecology Progress Series271207220Google Scholar
  16. Mouritsen, K. N., Jensen, K. T. 1997Parasite transmission between soft-bottom invertebrates: temperature mediated infection rates and mortality in Corophium volutatorMarine Ecology Progress Series151123134Google Scholar
  17. Orton, J. 1933Summer mortality of cockles on some Lancashire and Cheshire Dee bedsNature132314315Google Scholar
  18. Reise, K. 1985Tidal Flat EcologySpringerBerlinGoogle Scholar
  19. Richardson, C. A., Ibarrola, I., Ingham, R. J. 1993Emergence pattern and spatial distribution of the common cockle Cerastoderma eduleMarine Ecology Progress Series997181Google Scholar
  20. Silva, D. P., Magalhaes, A., Barracco, M. 2002Effects of Bucephalus sp. (Trematoda: Bucephalidae) on Perna perna mussels from a culture station in Ratones Grande Island, BrazilJournal of Invertebrate Pathology79154162PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Strasser, M., Reinwald, T., Reise, K. 2001Differential survival of the severe winter 1995/96 on the intertidal bivalves Mytilus edulis, Cerastoderma edule and Mya arenaria in the northern Wadden SeaHelgoland Marine Research55190197Google Scholar
  22. Thieltges, D.W. & K. Reise, in press. Metazoan parasites in intertidal cockles cerastoderma edule from the northern Wadden Sea. Journal of Sea Research.Google Scholar
  23. Thomas, F., Poulin, R. 1998Manipulation of a mollusc by a trophically transmitted parasite: convergent evolution or phylogenetic inheritance?Parasitology116431436CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Valderrama, K., Oliva, M., Campos, B. D., Brown, D. 2004Parasitic castration of Eurhomalea lenticularis (Bivalvia: Veneridae) by a digenetic trematode: quantitative histological analysisDiseases of Aquatic Organisms59151158PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Wegeberg, A. M., Jensen, K. T. 1999Reduced survivorship of Himasthla (Trematoda, Digenea) – infected cockles (Cerastoderma edule) exposed to oxygen depletionJournal of Sea Research42325331CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchListGermany

Personalised recommendations