Abstract

The microhabitats in which hosts live can potentially influence the ability and success of parasites in finding and infecting these hosts. The infection dynamics of both digenetic trematode parasites and a nematode parasite (Daubaylia potomaca) infecting a pulmonate snail, Helisoma anceps, were observed in a small North Carolina lake using 3 different classifications of substratum type based on percent coverage by leaves and debris. There were no differences in snail site occupancy or density between substratum types, but small-scale differences in microhabitat impacted parasite prevalence and intensity in their gastropod hosts. Snails inhabiting substrata covered in more leaf litter and debris had a lower prevalence and intensity of infection by all of the trematode species and life stages when compared to H. anceps inhabiting other substrata types, while only the intensity of infection was impacted in D. potomaca infections. These findings emphasize the importance of microhabitat, specifically its physical components, in influencing parasite infection in intermediate hosts and that small-scale differences may significantly affect the patterns of infection.

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