We describe the digenean fauna of one of the dominant intertidal hosts, the common cockle Cerastoderma edule, in terms of biomass, off north-eastern Atlantic shores. Using published and unpublished literature we have prepared an identification key and provide an up-date of the large-scale distributional patterns of digenean species of the common cockle. At least sixteen digenean species, belonging to seven families, use cockles as intermediate host. Among these species two utilize cockles as first intermediate host only, whereas two species utilize cockles as both first and second intermediate host. The remaining eleven species have cockles as their second intermediate host. Water birds and fish are the definitive hosts to twelve and four species, respectively.
Cockles are infected with digeneans along the latitudinal gradient from southern Morocco to the western region of the Barents Sea often with high infection levels. Whereas some of these digenean species occur along most of the latitudinal gradient others show a more restricted northern or southern distribution mostly caused by an underlying latitudinal gradient of host species.
Knowledge of digenean species and their large-scale distribution pattern may serve as a baseline for future studies dealing with the effects of climate change on parasite–host systems. For such studies the cockle and its digenean community could be an ideal model system.