Range limits and parasite prevalence in a freshwater snail

  • Briers R
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Geographical range limits are thought to be set by species' physiological or ecological adaptation to abiotic factors, but the importance of biotic factors such as parasitism in determining range limits has not been well explored. In this study the prevalence of trematode parasitism in populations of a freshwater gastropod snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, increased sharply as this species approached its western UK range limit. The likelihood of trematode infection increased with snail size, but high prevalence at the range edge was not a result of interpopulation variation in snail size. Changes in population growth rates resulting from high rates of parasitism at the range edge could contribute to range limitation. The mechanism driving high rates of parasitism at the range edge is not clear, but changes in abiotic factors towards the range limit may influence snail life history and immune response to trematode infection, indirectly altering the prevalence of parasites in marginal host populations.

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  • R. A. Briers

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