The amount and distribution of genetic variability in host populations can have significant effects on the outcome of host-parasite interactions. We studied the effect of mating system and genetic variability on susceptibility of Lymnaea stagnalis snails to trematode parasites. Mating system of snails from eight populations differing in the amount of genetic variability was manipulated, and self- and cross-fertilized offspring were exposed to naturally occurring trematode parasites in a controlled lake experiment. Susceptibility of snails varied between populations, but mating-system treatment did not have a significant effect. Heterozygosity of snails was negatively correlated with the probability of trematode infection, however, suggesting that parasitic diseases may pose a serious threat to populations lacking genetic variability.
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Vol. 58 • No. 12