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Small estuarine fishes feed on large trematode cercariae: Lab and field investigations

January 1, 2009

In aquatic ecosystems, dense populations of snails can shed millions of digenean trematode cercariae every day. These short-lived, free-living larvae are rich in energy and present a potential resource for consumers. We investigated whether estuarine fishes eat cercariae shed by trematodes of the estuarine snail Cerithidea californica. In aquaria we presented cercariae from 10 native trematode species to 6 species of native estuarine fishes. Many of these fishes readily engorged on cercariae. To determine if fishes ate cercariae in the field, we collected the most common fish species, Fundulus parvipinnis (California killifish), from shallow water on rising tides when snails shed cercariae. Of 61 killifish, 3 had recognizable cercariae in their gut. Because cercariae are common in this estuary, they could be frequent sources of energy for small fishes. In turn, predation on cercariae by fishes (and other predators) could also reduce the transmission success of trematodes. ?? 2009 American Society of Parasitologists.