Parasitology Research

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 281–287 | Cite as

Recruitment rate of gymnophallid metacercariae in the New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi: an experimental test of the hitch-hiking hypothesis

  • Tommy L. F. LeungEmail author
  • Robert Poulin
Original Paper


The rate at which host organisms accumulate parasites is affected by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi is frequently parasitised by trematodes comprising of two species of echinostomes and a species of gymnophallid that use it as a second intermediate host for trophic transmission to avian definitive hosts. The echinostomes are capable of manipulating the burrowing behaviour of the cockle to enhance their transmission success, whereas the gymnophallid is not capable of host manipulation. Previous studies have found patterns of positive associations between the echinostomes and the gymnophallid. Thus, it is possible that the latter is a “hitch-hiking” parasite that preferentially infects cockles already heavily infected by echinostome metacercariae to enhance its own transmission rate. A field experiment involving cockles forced to remain either above or below the sediment surface to simulate manipulated and non-manipulated cockles was conducted to test the hitch-hiking hypothesis. The gymnophallid was not found to display any preference for either surfaced or buried cockles; therefore, it cannot be considered as a hitch-hiking parasite. Possible alternative reasons for the pattern of positive association between the gymnophallid and the echinostomes are proposed.


Intermediate Host Definitive Host Burial Depth Infection Intensity Baseline Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Florian Weller for providing assistance with setting up the field experiment and Clément Lagrue and Kim Bryan-Walker for help with the maintenance of the cockle cages. The experiments conducted for this study comply with the current laws of New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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