Temporal variations in the prevalence of larval trematodes in the short-lived prosobranch mudsnail Hydrobia ventrosa (Montagu) were investigated in relation to host life history and season for 4 successive years in temperate windflats of the southern Baltic Sea. The component community of trematode larvae in H. ventrosa comprises at least 10 species; families (and species) represented include Notocotylidae (1), Echinostomatidae (1 or 2), Heterophyidae (2), Monorchidae (1), Microphallidae (3 or 4), Psilostomatidae (1), and Hemiuridae (1). The notocotylid Paramonostomum alveatum was the most prevalent species, followed by the microphallids Maritrema subdolum and Microphallus sp. Trematode prevalence in H. ventrosa fluctuated seasonally. Prevalence usually peaked in summer between July and September–October and decreased in late winter–early spring. This seasonal change is chiefly explained by the life history patterns of the semelparous snail host. Hydrobia ventrosa has a maximum life span of about 2 yr and reproduces between June and November of its second calendar year. The first trematode infections appeared annually in May when the most abundant cohort of H. ventrosa, the second-calendar-year snails, mature. The prevalence continued to increase until August–September, throughout the reproductive period of the second-calendar-year snails. Prevalence decreased during winter, when most of the second-calendar-year snails died after reproduction. On the basis of long-term laboratory experiments, it has been shown that the late autumn–winter mortality was not the result of trematode infections. Seasonal patterns of prevalence were similar among the trematode species except for the monorchid Asymphylodora demeli, the only one using fish definitive hosts. Species-specific differences in the seasonal occurrence of prepatent infections and the predominance of certain larval stages in winter are interpreted as different strategies of the trematode species to survive the harsh winter conditions, or to survive the death of the first intermediate host in autumn–winter, or both.
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