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Equal partnership: two trematode species, not one, manipulate the burrowing behaviour of the New Zealand cockle, Austrovenus stutchburyi

  • C. Babirat (a1), K.N. Mouritsen (a1) and R. Poulin (a1)

Abstract

Metacercariae of the trematode Curtuteria australis (Echinostomatidae) accumulate in the foot of the New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi, severely impairing the cockle's ability to burrow under the sediments. This results in increased predation by birds on cockles, and thus enhanced transmission rates of the parasite to its bird definitive hosts. This host manipulation by the trematode is costly: fish regularly crop the tip of the foot of cockles stranded on the sediment surface, killing any metacercariae they ingest. A second, previously undetected trematode species (characterized by 23 collar spines) co-existing with C. australis, has been found in the foot of cockles in the Otago Harbour, South Island, New Zealand. The relative abundance of the two species varies among localities, with the identity of the numerically dominant species also changing from one locality to the next. Both C. australis and the new species have a strong preference for encysting in the tip of the cockle's foot, where their impact on the burrowing ability of the host is greatest, and where they both face the risk of cropping by fish. Results indicate that these two species are ecological equivalents, and their combined numbers determine how the cockle population is affected.

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Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence Fax: +64 3 479-7584, Email , robert.poulin@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

References

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Equal partnership: two trematode species, not one, manipulate the burrowing behaviour of the New Zealand cockle, Austrovenus stutchburyi

  • C. Babirat (a1), K.N. Mouritsen (a1) and R. Poulin (a1)

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