abstract

Populations of North American waterbirds, particularly lesser scaup, have been declining due to habitat disturbance, changing food resources, contaminants, bad water quality, and competition. However, epizootic diseases, including parasitism, may also play an important role in further decline. Trematode-associated mortality of migrating waterbirds, mainly American coot and lesser scaup, has been occurring in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge since 2002. We examined the levels of infective stages of Cyathocotyle bushiensis and Sphaeridiotrema globulus in the invasive, intermediate host snail, Bithynia tentaculata, during the fall of 2005 and compared these to infection levels in moribund or dead bird hosts. Our results show different infection levels of these 2 parasites in the 2 bird species; C. bushiensis is found more frequently in coot, and S. globulus is more common in scaup. This result is interesting because both bird species are presumed to forage on the same snail population and thus should be experiencing the same extent of exposure. These differences in infections could be attributed to differences in resources of gastrointestinal tracts of coot and scaup, or host resistance. Alternatively, differences in feeding behaviors of coot and scaup may also contribute to differential infections of the 2 trematodes.

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