The whelk Cominella glandiformis is an important predator–scavenger of New Zealand intertidal ecosystems; a few whelks can quickly eat all the soft tissues of recently dead crabs. In this study, we demonstrate that whelks can also ingest and act as paratenic hosts for at least 4 helminth species that use crabs as intermediate hosts: metacercariae of the trematode Maritrema sp. and of another unidentified trematode, larval acuariid nematodes, and cystacanths of the acanthocephalans Profilicollis spp. Large whelks ingest disproportionately more helminth larvae than small whelks, but the survival of parasites during their short stay in the whelks is not affected by whelk size. The majority of metacercariae and nematodes are passed out in whelk feces within 3 days of ingestion, whereas the few cystacanths found did not leave whelks until after that time; no parasite was left in whelks 5 days postingestion. Survival of all 4 helminth species was generally very high, though it decreased day by day in 2 species. Given that the avian definitive hosts of all 4 helminths also eat whelks, our results indicate that alternative transmission pathways exist and that parasites can take routes through food webs that are too often ignored.

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