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|Parasites as prey: the effect of cercarial density and alternative prey on consumption of cercariae by four non-host species|Welsh, J.E.; Liddell, C.; Van der Meer, J.; Thieltges, D.W. (2017). Parasites as prey: the effect of cercarial density and alternative prey on consumption of cercariae by four non-host species. Parasitology 144(13): 1775-1782. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0031182017001056
In: Parasitology. Cambridge University Press: London. ISSN 0031-1820; e-ISSN 1469-8161, meer
Transmission; trematodes; cercariae; predation
In parasites with complex life cycles the transmission of free-living infective stages can be influenced by ambient community diversity, in particular via predation. Here, we experimentally investigated whether parasite density and the presence of alternative prey can alter predation rates on free-living cercarial stages of a marine trematode by several non-host predators. All four predator species consumed increasing numbers of cercariae with an increase in cercarial density, indicating that the removal of cercariae by predators is effective over a range of natural densities as well as in the presence of alternative prey for a number of predators typical of marine ecosystems. However, the relative removal rates and the effects of cercarial density and alternative prey differed among predator species. In barnacles and shrimps, significant interactive effects of cercarial density and alternative prey on cercarial predation occurred while in oysters and crabs cercarial removal rates were unaffected by both factors. As changes in cercarial densities directly translate into changes in infection levels in down-stream hosts in this parasite–host system, the observed predator-specific responses suggest that cercarial predation effects on disease risks will depend on the specific species composition of ambient communities and not on non-host biodiversity per se.