Tranmission pattern differences of miracidia and cercariae larval stages of digenetic trematode parasites
Digenetic trematodes have complex life cycles involving multiple hosts and free-living larval stages. Some species have 2 larval stages that infect snails, with miracidia and cercariae using these molluscs as first and second intermediate hosts, respectively. Although both larval stages may infect the same snail species, this is accomplished using different chemical cues and may be influenced by different biotic and abiotic factors. Significant differences in the infection patterns of these parasitic stages regarding host size and density were observed in 2 separate field studies. The prevalence of sporocysts/rediae and mean abundance of Echinostoma spp. metacercariae infection were positively correlated with host size, while the prevalence of Echinostoma spp. cercariae infection was positively correlated with host density across 5 different pulmonate snail species. Larger snails within a given species tend to be older and the increased exposure time may be responsible for the positive correlations with host size. Additionally, infection by miracidia in more vagile snail hosts was influenced by trematode species richness at a sample site, which may be attributed to increased encounter rate as a result of increased movement by the snail hosts. Echinostoma spp. metacercariae prevalence was influenced by host density, possibly due to high abundances of larval clones and their response to more generalized chemical cues attributed to low host specificity by cercariae. Although they can infect the same gastropod hosts, miracidia and cercariae infection are dependent on different factors at both the individual and population level of their snail hosts.
KeywordsTrematode miracidia cercariae Echinostoma snail ecology
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