The trematode Curtuteria australis uses the whelk Cominella glandiformis as first intermediate host and the cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi as second intermediate host before maturing in shorebirds. The whelk also happens to be an important predator of cockles on intertidal mudflats. In this study we show that whelks can act as temporary paratenic hosts for the trematode. A single whelk feeding on 1 cockle can ingest large numbers of metacercariae, which remain within the whelk for 1–3 days before passing out in feces. The viability of these metacercariae, assessed as the percentage capable of successfully excysting under conditions simulating those inside a bird's digestive tract, is lower after passage through a whelk (48%) than before (59%). Still, given that shorebird definitive hosts prey on whelks as well as cockles, survival inside the whelk allows C. australis to complete its life cycle; overall, though, whelk predation is likely to be an important sink for the trematode population. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a trematode using a snail as both first intermediate host and paratenic host, offering an alternative transmission route for the parasite as a result of the unusual trophic relationships of its hosts.
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