Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 8, pp 1873–1882 | Cite as

Host preference of a symbiotic flatworm in relation to the ecology of littoral snails

  • Yuta FujiwaraEmail author
  • Jotaro Urabe
  • Satoshi Takeda
Original Paper


Some polyclads associate with other marine invertebrates such as gastropods, but how these associations evolve is not well understood. This study examined the relationships between a polyclad, Stylochoplana pusilla, and six species of snails in 10 eulittoral sites in Mutsu Bay, northern Japan, in 2010 and 2011. Of the six potential host snail species, Monodonta labio was present at all sites and the prevalence of S. pusilla in the snails’ mantle cavities overall was 82.6 %. Four other snail species occurred at five or six sites in comparable densities, but of these, only Chlorostoma turbinatum and Omphalius rusticus had S. pusilla in their mantle cavities (prevalence of 42.0 and 15.4 %). A congener of M. labio, Monodonta neritoides, occurred at only one site and had no S. pusilla. The mantle, which provides habitat space for S. pusilla, was proportionally the longest in M. labio. In laboratory experiments, the flatworms preferentially entered M. labio over other snail species with the same mantle length. Observed vertical distributions of snails in the littoral zone indicate that M. labio is present in the eulittoral at both high and low tides, while C. turbinatum and O. rusticus are usually found in the sublittoral. In an evolutionary sense, the relationship between S. pusilla and its host may have developed as a mechanism for the flatworm to avoid predation by living in the eulittoral and to avoid desiccation by establishing commensal relationships with certain snails.


Jetty Host Preference Hermit Crab Substratum Condition Snail Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Dr. Ryusaku Deguchi (Miyagi University of Education) for his invaluable information on Stylochoplana pusilla. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Marine Biology, Graduate School of Life ScienceTohoku UniversityAsamushiJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Life ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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