HOST PARTITIONING BY PARASITES IN AN INTERTIDAL CRUSTACEAN COMMUNITY


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Abstract

Patterns of host use by parasites throughout a guild community of intermediate hosts can depend on several biological and ecological factors, including physiology, morphology, immunology, and behavior. We looked at parasite transmission in the intertidal crustacean community of Lower Portobello Bay, Dunedin, New Zealand, with the intent of: (1) mapping the flow of parasites throughout the major crustacean species, (2) identifying hosts that play the most important transmission role for each parasite, and (3) assessing the impact of parasitism on host populations. The most prevalent parasites found in 14 species of crustaceans (635 specimens) examined were the trematodes Maritrema novaezealandensis and Microphallus sp., the acanthocephalans Profilicollis spp., the nematode Ascarophis sp., and an acuariid nematode. Decapods were compatible hosts for M. novaezealandensis, while other crustaceans demonstrated lower host suitability as shown by high levels of melanized and immature parasite stages. Carapace thickness, gill morphology, and breathing style may contribute to the differential infection success of M. novaezealandensis and Microphallus sp. in the decapod species. Parasite-induced host mortality appears likely with M. novaezealandensis in the crabs Austrohelice crassa, Halicarcinus varius, Hemigrapsus sexdentatus, and Macrophthalmus hirtipes, and also with Microphallus sp. in A. crassa. Overall, the different parasite species make different use of available crustacean intermediate hosts and possibly contribute to intertidal community structure.

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