The influence of trematodes on the macroalgae consumption by the common periwinkle Littorina littorea

Karin Clausen, Martin H. Larsen, Nina Kerting Iversen, Kim Nørgaard Mouritsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Trematodes are ubiquitous elements Of coastal ecosystems that commonly modify the phenotype of their invertebrate hosts, often with ramifications to higher levels of ecological organization. In this context, trematode infections have been suggested to reduce the consumption of the herbivorous gastropod Littorina littorea (L.) (Mollusca: Gastropoda), in turn affecting the composition of the macroalgal community on which the snail grazes. Here, we examine the effect of two species of trematodes, Renicola roscovita and Himasthla elongata, on L. littorea's consumption in two outdoor microcosm experiments offering the snails two different ephemeral green algae species as a food source. Our results show that, irrespective of the species of parasite and food source, infection decreases consumption: uninfected snails consumed up to 65% more macroalgal biomass than infected snails. Aside from infection status, gender and size also influenced the snails' consumption rate significantly. The differing histopathological impacts of the two species of trematodes on the hosts' gonad-digestive gland complex (in which the parasites reside), suggests that parasitic castration is a likely mechanism for the reduced energy demand of infected periwinkles. Together with existing evidence, our investigation suggests that trematodes in general depress the grazing activity of L. littorea, and that the resulting community regulation occurs throughout the snails' distributional range.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number7, Sp. Iss. Suppl. I
Pages (from-to)1481-1485
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • energy demand
  • macroalgae consumption
  • macroalgal biomass
  • macroalgal community composition
  • parasitic castration
  • species distribution range
  • trematode infection Trematode Infections (MeSH) parasitic disease
  • Algae Plantae (Algae, Microorganisms, Nonvascular Plants, Plants) - Chlorophyta [13300] Ulva lactuca species food Enteromorpha intestinalis species food
  • Mollusca Invertebrata Animalia (Animals, Invertebrates, Mollusks) - Gastropoda [61200] Littorina littorea species common periwinkle common host female, male
  • Platyhelminthes Helminthes Invertebrata Animalia (Animals, Helminths, Invertebrates, Platyhelminths) - Trematoda [45200] Himasthla elongata species parasite Renicola roscovita species parasite
  • 07506, Ecology: environmental biology - Plant
  • 07508, Ecology: environmental biology - Animal
  • 07512, Ecology: environmental biology - Oceanography
  • 13502, Food technology - General and methods
  • 14004, Digestive system - Physiology and biochemistry
  • 16504, Reproductive system - Physiology and biochemistry
  • 17002, Endocrine - General
  • 51512, Plant physiology - Reproduction
  • 60502, Parasitology - General
  • 64010, Invertebrata: comparative, experimental morphology, physiology and pathology - Platyhelminthes
  • 64026, Invertebrata: comparative, experimental morphology, physiology and pathology - Mollusca
  • Ecology, Environmental Sciences
  • digestive gland digestive system
  • gonad reproductive system, endocrine system
  • Foods
  • Marine Ecology
  • Parasitology

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