EXPERIMENTAL EXPOSURE OFHELISOMA TRIVOLVISANDBIOMPHALARIA GLABRATA(GASTROPODA) TORIBEIROIA ONDATRAE(TREMATODA)

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Abstract

Experimental infections provide an important foundation for understanding host responses to parasites. While infections with Ribeiroia ondatrae cause mortality and malformations in a wide range of amphibian second intermediate host species, little is known about how the parasite affects its snail first intermediate hosts or even what species can support infection. In this study, we experimentally exposed Helisoma trivolvis, a commonly reported host of R. ondatrae, and Biomphalaria glabrata, a confamilial snail known to host Ribeiroia marini, to increasing concentrations of embryonated eggs of R. ondatrae obtained from surrogate definitive hosts. Over the course of 8 wk, we examined the effect of parasite exposure on infection status, time-to-cercariae release, host size, and mortality of both snail species. Helisoma trivolvis was a highly competent host for R. ondatrae infection, with over 93% infection in all exposed snails, regardless of egg exposure level. However, no infections were detected among exposed B. glabrata, despite previous accounts of this snail hosting a congener parasite. Among exposed H. trivolvis, high parasite exposure reduced growth, decreased time-to-cercariae release, and caused marginally significant increases in mortality. Interestingly, while B. glabrata snails did not become infected with R. ondatrae, individuals exposed to 650 R. ondatrae eggs grew less rapidly than unexposed snails, suggesting a sub-lethal energetic cost associated with parasite exposure. Our results highlight the importance of using experimental infections to understand the effects of parasite exposure on host- and non-host species, each of which can be affected by exposure.

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