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Consumer and host body size effects on the removal of trematode cercariae by ambient communities

Welsh, Jennifer E., Hempel, Anke, Markovic, Mirjana, van der Meer, Jaap, Thieltges, David W.
Parasitology 2019 v.146 no.3 pp. 342-347
Trematoda, body size, cercariae, crabs, host-parasite relationships, hosts, laboratory experimentation, models, mortality, oysters, parasites, predators, shrimp
Parasite transmission can be altered via the removal of parasites by the ambient communities in which parasite–host interactions take place. However, the mechanisms driving parasite removal remain poorly understood. Using marine trematode cercariae as a model system, we investigated the effects of consumer and host body size on parasite removal rates. Laboratory experiments revealed that consumer or host body size significantly affected cercarial removal rates in crabs, oysters and cockles but not in shrimps. In general, cercarial removal rates increased with consumer (crabs and oysters) and host (cockles) body size. For the filter feeding oysters and cockles, the effects probably relate to their feeding activity which is known to correlate with bivalve size. Low infection levels found in cockle hosts suggest that parasite removal by hosts also leads to significant mortality of infective stages. The size effects of crab and shrimp predators on cercarial removal rates were more complex and did not show an expected size match-mismatch between predators and their cercarial prey, suggesting that parasite removal rates in predators are species-specific. We conclude that to have a comprehensive understanding of parasite removal by ambient communities, more research into the various mechanisms of cercarial removal is required.