Abstract

Daubaylia potomaca is a nematode parasite that exhibits an unusual direct life cycle in planorbid snails in which adult females are the infective stage, after being shed from a definitive host. The present study examined the shedding patterns of this nematode to determine what cues or mechanisms might lead to the parasite leaving its host. A correlation was found between host death and the frequency and number of D. potomaca shed, suggesting that the nematodes can detect that the host is dying and may leave in search of a new host. Furthermore, elevated intensities of D. potomaca in the snail induce shedding earlier, suggesting that competition for space and resources may also play a role in the shedding patterns of the nematode, but not when time to death is controlled. Finally, nematodes shed a longer time before host death were significantly longer and more likely to be gravid than those shed as time to snail death approached, implying that the nematode reaching maturity or being inseminated might also be cues for D. potomaca to leave its snail host. In summary, the shedding patterns of D. potomaca appear to be a complex mix of host death detection, competition, and nematode maturation.

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