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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 455:79-93 (2012)  -  DOI:

Seasonal dynamics in an intertidal mudflat: the case of a complex trematode life cycle

A. Studer*, R. Poulin

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: Seasonal fluctuations of host densities and environmental factors are common in many ecosystems and have consequences for biotic interactions, such as the transmission of parasites and pathogens. Here, we investigated seasonal patterns in all host stages associated with the complex life cycle of the intertidal trematode Maritrema novaezealandensis on a mudflat where this parasite’s prevalence is known to be high (Lower Portobello Bay, Otago Harbour, New Zealand). The first intermediate snail host Zeacumantus subcarinatus, a key second intermediate crustacean host, the amphipod Paracalliope novizealandiae, and definitive bird hosts were included in the study. The density (snails, amphipods), abundance (birds), prevalence, i.e. percentage of infected individuals, and infection intensity (snails, amphipods) of the studied organisms were assessed. Furthermore, temperature was recorded in tide pools, where transmission mainly occurs, over a 1 yr period. Overall, the trematode prevalence in snail hosts was 64.5%, with 88.4% of infected snails harbouring M. novaezealandensis. There was a strong seasonal signal in prevalence and infection intensity in second intermediate amphipod hosts, with peaks for both parameters in summer (over 90% infected; infection intensity: 1 to 202 parasites per amphipod). This peak coincided with the highest abundance of definitive bird hosts and of small and still uninfected snails present on the mudflat. Our observations indicate that all of the transmission events necessary to complete the complex life cycle of this parasite primarily occur during warmer months.

KEY WORDS: Seasonality · Parasite transmission · Host–parasite interactions · Temperature · Maritrema novaezealandensis · Paracalliope novizealandiae · Zeacumantus subcarinatus

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Cite this article as: Studer A, Poulin R (2012) Seasonal dynamics in an intertidal mudflat: the case of a complex trematode life cycle. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 455:79-93.

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