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Impact of trematode infections on periphyton grazing rates of freshwater snails


In freshwater ecosystems, snails can significantly influence the competition between primary producers through grazing of periphyton. This activity can potentially be modified by trematodes, a large group of parasites which mostly use molluscs as the first intermediate host. Available studies, however, show contradictory effects of trematodes on snail periphyton grazing. Here, we used four different freshwater snail–trematode systems to test whether a general pattern can be detected for the impact of trematode infections on snail periphyton grazing. In our experimental systems, mass-specific periphyton grazing rates of infected snails were higher, lower, or similar to rates of non-infected conspecifics, suggesting that no general pattern exists. The variation across studied snail–trematode systems may result from differences on how the parasite uses the resources of the snail and thus affects their energy budget. Trematode infections can significantly alter the grazing rate of snails, where, depending on the system, the mass-specific grazing rate can double or halve. This underlines both, the high ecological relevance of trematodes and the need for comprehensive studies at the species level to allow an integration of these parasite–host interactions into aquatic food web concepts.

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We are grateful to Veronika Siegelová for her technical assistance and advice on the maintenance of snails in the lab. Further, we would like to thank Cécile Périllon and Seraina Bracamonte for their support during the experiments.


This research was supported by the Graduate School IMPact-Vector funded by the Senate Competition Committee grant (SAW-2014-SGN-3) of the Leibniz-Association. Research of PH is currently supported by European Regional Development Fund and Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000759) and Institutional Grants (Charles University PROGRES Q43 and UNCE/SCI/012-204072/2018).

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Correspondence to Jenny Carolina Vivas Muñoz.

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Vivas Muñoz, J.C., Hilt, S., Horák, P. et al. Impact of trematode infections on periphyton grazing rates of freshwater snails. Parasitol Res 117, 3547–3555 (2018).

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  • Trematodes
  • Grazing rates
  • Periphyton
  • Host–parasite interaction
  • Freshwater snails