Interactions between parasites of the cockle : hitch-hikers, resident-cleaners, and habitat-facilitatorsAustrovenus stutchburyi: hitch-hikers, resident-cleaners, and habitat-facilitators

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The patterns of association between parasites within a particular host are determined by a number of factors. One of these factors is whether or not infection by one parasite influences the probability of acquiring other parasite species. This study investigates the pattern of association between various parasites of the New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi. Hundreds of cockles were collected from one locality within Otago Harbour, New Zealand and examined for trematode metacercariae and other symbionts. Two interspecific associations emerged from the study. First, the presence of the myicolid copepod Pseudomyicola spinosus was positively associated with higher infection intensity by echinostomes. The side-effect of the copepod's activities within the cockle is suggested as the proximate mechanism that facilitates infection by echinostome cercariae, leading to a greater rate of accumulation of metacercariae in cockles harbouring the copepod. Second, a positive association was also found between infection intensity of the metacercariae of foot-encysting echinostomes and that of gymnophallid metacercariae. This supports earlier findings and suggests that the gymnophallid is a hitch-hiker parasite because, in addition to the pattern of positive association, it (a) shares the same transmission route as the echinostomes, and (b) unlike the echinostomes, it is not capable of increasing the host's susceptibility to avian predation. Thus, both active hitch-hiking and incidental facilitation lead to non-random infection patterns in this parasite community.

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