Trematode-induced castration of snails is widespread and can lead to other life history changes of snails such as changes in trajectories of size and growth or survival. The changes produced likely depend on whether the parasite or host controls allocation of host resources remaining after partial or complete cessation of host current reproduction by castrating trematodes. Documenting host life history changes, like changes in host size in response to castration, is a first step in assessing whether these changes are beneficial to the parasite (increasing transmission success) or to the host (outliving the infection) or to neither. Herein, we test for differences in size and survival among individuals of two snail species in relation to infection by Echinostoma spp. trematodes. Active shedding of Echinostoma spp. was associated with castration of all Stagnicola elodes snails from a site in Eastern Ontario. Snails actively shedding cercariae were not different in size from non-shedding, egg-laying snails but had a higher mortality than egg-laying snails. Active shedding of Echinostoma spp. cercariae was also associated with castration of nearly all Helisoma trivolvis monitored, from a site in Southwestern Ontario. Actively shedding, non-laying H. trivolvis hosts were smaller on average than non-shedding egg-laying hosts, but both non-laying and egg-laying snails survived equally well. We discuss these results in light of what is known about effects of castration on snail hosts in terms of growth and survival for these and other trematode species and speculate on whether changes in size or survival benefits parasite or host.

, , , ,
Parasitology Research
Department of Biology

Marchand, J. (Justin), Robinson, S.A. (Stacey A.), & Forbes, M. (2020). Size and survival of two freshwater snail species in relation to shedding of cercariae of castrating Echinostoma spp. Parasitology Research. doi:10.1007/s00436-020-06830-0