, Volume 600, Issue 1, pp 29–40 | Cite as

Habitat influences snail community structure and trematode infection levels in a spring-fed river, Texas, USA

  • Lori R. Tolley-JordanEmail author
  • J. Murry Owen
Primary research paper


The spring-fed Comal River in Texas, USA, has been impounded and channelized resulting mainly in a lentic environment with four headwater spring runs. We sampled two spring runs (lotic sites) and two lentic sites seasonally from April 2001 through April 2002 to assess (1) co-occurrence of native and exotic snail species (as determined by interspecific association), (2) the importance of habitat conditions in structuring relationships among these species, and (3) the distribution of snails infected with exotic trematode parasites. Three exotic and four endemic species of aquatic snails were collected, but only Elimia comalensis (Prosobranchia: Pleuroceridae, native), Melanoides tuberculatus, and Tarebia granifera (Prosobranchia: Thiaridae, exotic) were in sufficient densities for further analyses. Tarebia granifera was positively associated with both M. tuberculatus2 = 18.5, P < 0.001) and E. comalensis2 = 7.3, P < 0.01), although the co-occurrence between the two exotics was much stronger. Melanoides tuberculatus and E. comalensis exhibited a strong, negative association (χ2 = 10.9, P < 0.001). The weaker co-occurrence between E. comalensis with the thiarids appeared to be driven by differences in habitat use by the thiarids and native E. comalensis. In lentic habitats, densities of M. tuberculatus and T. granifera were similar but differed significantly from E. comalensis whose densities were 200 times less than the exotic snails. In lotic spring runs, densities of T. granifera and E. comalensis were similar, but differed significantly from M. tuberculatus whose densities were 10 times fewer. Lower densities of M. tuberculatus and T. granifera in habitat conditions common to the spring runs may explain why exotic snail interactions were less with the native E. comalensis than with each other. The native snail, E. comalensis, was not infected with any trematodes, while 6.1% of M. tuberculatus and 4.8% of T. granifera were infected with exotic trematodes. Distributions of infected snails were aggregated; such that most infected snails were found in lentic habitats with silt substrates and moderate to high levels of detritus. Continued declines in spring-flows due to aquifer withdrawals and droughts will increase lentic habitats that may lead to increased densities of T. granifera and M. tuberculatus and their concomitant parasites.


Snail Exotic Spring-fed river Trematode Parasite 



Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We thank NFHTC staff and volunteers including: Val Cantu, Lynley Doyen, Randy Gibson, Lene Griego, Ben Grod, Connie Johnson, and Jenna Lueg and for their assistance with data collection and data entry. We also thank Michael Longnecker and John Sweka for assistance with experimental design and analysis. Tom Brandt, Joe Fries, Mike Levy, Richard Manning, Jean-Pierre Pointier, Robin Overstreet, and Tomáš Scholz graciously reviewed proposals and provided helpful suggestions throughout the course of the study. Tom Brandt, Michael Chadwick, Joe Fries, Alexander Huryn, and Heidi Rantala provided many useful comments and suggestions to previous versions of the manuscript. The comments of two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. The views in this article are the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Fish Hatchery and Technology CenterU.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceSan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences, Aquatic Biology ProgramThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  3. 3.San AntonioUSA

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