DAO 37:221-230 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/dao037221

Distribution patterns of marine bird digenean larvae in periwinkles along the southern coast of the Barents Sea

Kirill V. Galaktionov1, Jan Ove Bustnes2,*

1Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, White Sea Biological Station, Universitetskaja nab., 1, St Petersburg, 199034, Russia
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Department of Arctic Ecology, The Polar Environmental Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: An important component of the parasite fauna of seabirds in arctic regions are the flukes (Digena). Different species of digeneans have life cycles which may consist of 1 intermediate host and no free-living larval stages, 2 intermediate hosts and 1 free-living stage, or 2 intermediate hosts and 2 free-living larval stages. This study examined the distribution of such parasites in the intertidal zones of the southern coast of the Barents Sea (northwestern Russia and northern Norway) by investigating 2 species of periwinkles (Littorina saxatilis and L. obtusata) which are intermediate hosts of many species of digeneans. A total of 26020 snails from 134 sampling stations were collected. The study area was divided into 5 regions, and the number of species, frequency of occurrence and prevalence of different digenean species and groups of species (depending on life cycle complexity) were compared among these regions, statistically controlling for environmental exposure. We found 14 species of digeneans, of which 13 have marine birds as final hosts. The number of species per sampling station increased westwards, and was higher on the Norwegian coast than on the Russian coast. The frequency of occurrence of digeneans with more than 1 intermediate host increased westwards, making up a larger proportion of the digeneans among infected snails. This was significant in L. saxatilis. The prevalence of different species showed the same pattern, and significantly more snails of both species were infected with digeneans with complicated life cycles in the western regions. In L. saxatilis, environmental exposure had a statistically significant effect on the distribution of the most common digenean species. This was less obvious in L. obtusata. The causes of changing species composition between regions are probably (1) the harsh climate in the eastern part of the study area reducing the probability of successful transmission of digeneans with complicated life cycles, and (2) the distribution of different final hosts.

KEY WORDS: Seabirds · Parasites · Trematoda · Digenea · Barents Sea · Distribution

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