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Geographic variation of parasitic and predatory traces on mollusks in the northern Adriatic Sea, Italy: implications for the stratigraphic paleobiology of biotic interactions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2015

John Warren Huntley
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Missouri, 101 Geology Building, Columbia, Missouri 65211, U.S.A. E-mail:
Daniele Scarponi
Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, Università di Bologna, via Zamboni 67, 40126 Bologna, Italy


Parasitic trematode worms leave characteristic pits in their bivalve mollusk hosts and represent an ideal system for analyzing parasite-host interactions through space and time with statistically meaningful sample sizes. Previous work in Late Pleistocene–Holocene sequences from the Po plain revealed significant long-term fluctuations in trematode prevalence values: higher prevalence in retrogradational environments (TST) and negligible prevalence in progradational environments (HST). Here we expand upon this work by investigating traces of parasitism, kleptoparasitism, and predation on mollusk death assemblages from two domains along the northern Adriatic coastline. The domain north of the Po delta (TST-like) and the southern domain (including the Po delta; HST-like) comprise environments comparable to those recovered in late Holocene (<6 Kyr) subsurface progradational deposits. We collected 17,299 specimens representing 111 species from 11 locations on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy. Our results reveal high predation pressure, a high diversity of host taxa, and widespread presence of trematode infestation in starved, oligotrophic, environmentally more stable (i.e., TST-like) settings north of the Po delta. Immediately south of the Po delta, in settings with strong and variable sedimentary input, almost no infestation is recorded. The reappearance of infestation is evident in the southern portion of the study area (i.e., Cattolica-Montemarciano), relatively far from the highly stressed environments south of the Po River. There is no significant difference in trematode prevalence values between fossil and modern samples. The distribution of spionid traces (an indicator of stressed environments) was nearly the opposite of that displayed by trematodes. Drilling frequency is highest in TST-like environments and is not correlated with diversity indices. These results suggest that temporal trends of trematode prevalence (and possibly also other biotic interactions) in sedimentary successions are controlled by environmental changes driven by glacio-eustatic dynamics, and reaffirm the importance of interpreting temporal trends in the context of spatial variation.

Paleobiology , Volume 41 , Issue 1 , January 2015 , pp. 134 - 153
Copyright © 2015 The Paleontological Society. All rights reserved. 

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Geographic variation of parasitic and predatory traces on mollusks in the northern Adriatic Sea, Italy: implications for the stratigraphic paleobiology of biotic interactions
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