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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 52:137-149 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/dao052137

Cockle emergence at the sediment surface: ‘favourization’ mechanism by digenean parasites?

C. Desclaux*, X. de Montaudouin, G. Bachelet

Laboratoire d¹Océanographie Biologique, UMR 5805 CNRS, Université Bordeaux 1, 2 rue du Professeur Jolyet, 33120 Arcachon, France

ABSTRACT: The aim of the present work was to assess the effect of digenean trematodes on indirect mortality of the cockle Cerastoderma edule, an infaunal bivalve. The tested hypothesis was that parasites altered the burrowing capacity of cockles and thus exposed them at the sediment surface, where they are more vulnerable to predators. If the predator is the final host, this mechanism, which drives the cockle out of the sediment, is considered as a ‘favourization’. Cockle populations from 2 stations in Arcachon Bay (France)—Banc d'Arguin (oceanic situation) and La Canelette (lagoonal situation)—were sampled for 1 yr. At La Canelette, monitoring every 2 d showed that 50% of adult cockles regularly migrated to the sediment surface at a rate of 5 cockles m-2 yr-1 and disappeared in a few days. In the laboratory, 67% of these ‘surface cockles’ did not burrow again, suggesting that they would die in the field. Moreover, mortality measured after 7 d in the laboratory was 2 to 5 times higher than mortality of ‘buried cockles’, at both stations and particularly during summer. Species richness and abundance of digeneans from both stations were compared in ‘buried’ and ‘surface’ individuals to determine whether parasites played a role in cockle migration and mortality. Ten and 9 digeneans were found at Banc d'Arguin and La Canelette, respectively, with Himasthla quissetensis and Labratrema minimus being the most prevalent and abundant species at both stations. The abundance of H. quissetensis was slightly higher in surface cockles at Banc d¹Arguin, but the difference fluctuated with station and cockle age (or size). L. minimus prevalence was only higher in surface cockles at La Canelette. In the latter station, we estimated that L. minimus and H. quissetensis were responsible for the emergence of 9 and 2%, respectively, of the buried cockles. Although this favourization mechanism may induce some mortality in cockles, it does not alone explain the magnitude of the observed mortalities (41 and 57% at La Canelette and Banc d¹Arguin, respectively). A correspondence analysis did not show the presence of a particular parasite community in buried or surface cockles, which could explain these high surface cockle mortalities in association with the 2 dominant digeneans.

KEY WORDS: Digeneans · Cerastoderma edule · Favourization · Mortality · Population dynamics

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