Abstract

The current experiments were designed to assess the interaction of light and gravity on the transmission of Echinostoma caproni cercariae to the second intermediate host, Biomphalaria glabrata. Transmission chambers were constructed of clear polyvinyl chloride pipe covered with a black sleeve to exclude light. Snails were constrained within the chamber to prevent movement, while permitting the cercariae to swim freely. A trial consisted of 2 infected B. glabrata shedding E. caproni cercariae placed at the center of the chamber with 5 uninfected B. glabrata placed 10 cm above and below the shedding snails as sentinels. Three experiments, consisting of 12 trials each, were conducted under the following lighting conditions, i.e., above and below the transmission chamber, and in complete darkness. In all 3 experiments, the proportion of metacercariae was significantly higher in snails at the top of the chamber. The results suggest that a negative geotaxis is the primary factor in the initial dispersal of E. caproni cercariae. Coupling negative geotaxis and positive phototaxis (light from above) resulted in a significantly higher proportion of metacercariae in sentinel snails at the top of the transmission chamber when corrected for cercarial density. There was no significant difference in the proportion of metacercariae in snails at the top or bottom of the transmission chamber with light at the bottom of the chamber or in complete darkness. Cercariae of E. caproni only respond to light in context, i.e., from above, and ignore the light stimulus when it comes from an unexpected location (bottom of the water column). Significantly greater numbers of cercariae were released from shedding snails when light was present, suggesting that emergence of cercariae from B. glabrata is dependent on light regardless of the position of the light source.

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