Centrocestus formosanus (Trematoda: Heterophyidae) is an invasive fish parasite in the Comal River, Texas, and is considered a threat to the federally endangered fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola. Monitoring densities of C. formosanus cercariae is crucial to determining levels of infection pressure. We sampled 3 sites in the Comal River during 2 sampling periods, the first during 2006–2007, and again during 2009–2010. Two of the sites were located in the upstream reach of Landa Lake, sites HS and LA, and the third site was located downstream of Landa Lake in the old channel of the river. Cercariae densities were highest at the downstream most site (EA), followed by sites LA and HS, during both sampling periods, but a significant decline in cercariae density was observed between the first and second sampling periods. Several abiotic factors were monitored, including total stream discharge, wading discharge, temperature, and dissolved oxygen, but no river-wide trends were observed. Therefore, we speculate that these factors do not adequately explain the observed long-term decline in cercariae density. We propose that the decline is simply a reflection of a typical pattern followed by most invasive species as they gradually become integrated into the local community following an initial explosive growth in population size. Although cercariae densities may be abating, fountain darters in the Comal River are still threatened by the parasite, and conservation efforts must focus on reducing levels of infection pressure from the parasite whenever possible.
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Vol. 98 • No. 1