Parasitism and invasive species : an ecological study of mussel populations

Calvo-Ugarteburu, Guruntze (1997) Parasitism and invasive species : an ecological study of mussel populations. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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The Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, was introduced accidentally to South Africa and has since become invasive. One possible explanation for the success of this species is that it has been released from the effects of parasites which affect the indigenous species of mussels. The aim of this work was to examine the parasitic load of different mussel populations along the southern African coast and to assess the effects of parasites on their hosts. A survey was done to quantify the levels of parasitism in indigenous populations of Perna perna from Southern Africa and of Mytilus galloprovincialis from South Africa (where it is exotic) and Spain (where it is indigenous). This survey was carried out at three different geographic scales: small scale (metres), studying the incidence of parasites within a mussel bed; medium scale (kilometres to tens of kilometres), comparing prevalences of infection among different localities; and large scale (hundreds to thousands of kilometres), examining infection rates along the Southern African coast, as well as the coast of the Basque Country (North Spain). During this survey metazoan parasites other than trematodes were rare. Four species of trematodes were commonly found infecting the indigenous mussel Perna perna. These were metacercariae of the genus Proctoeces, bucephalid sporocysts, encysted metacercariae on the labial palps and gelatinous cysts with metacercariae inside. A detailed description of Proctoeces is given; the other parasites are described elsewhere. No parasites were found in M. galloprovincialis either in South Africa or in Spain. This thesis concentrates on the study of prevalences of Proctoeces and bucephalid sporocysts and their effects on Perna perna. Infection rates with Proctoeces are highly dependent on the sex of the host, with more females than males being infected, and are also size dependent, though only for females. Identification of the sex of mussels infected with bucephalid sporocysts is often not possible since the sporocysts spread over the gonad and replace it. Prevalence of infection with this parasite also increases with the size of the host. To study the influence of Proctoeces and bucephalid sporocysts on the ecological fitness of Perna perna, their effects on survival and competitive ability were tested. The results showed significant negative effects. Both parasites significantly depressed condition but only after spawning, when the mussels were already stressed. In order to check for effects on host survival, the effects of both parasites on mortality rates, gaping behaviour and water loss of mussels exposed to air were also examined. Neither parasite affected mortality rate or gaping behaviour of Perna perna. Proctoeces did not affect the amount of water lost by mussels, but the bucephalid sporocysts did. Mussels infected with sporocysts lost significantly more water than non-infected individuals. This increase in water loss was not related to the gaping behaviour, but a test of the strength of the adductor muscles showed that less force was needed to open mussels with bucephalid sporocysts than non-infected mussels. This was not the case for mussels infected by Proctoeces. Weaker mussels will fail to seal the valves properly, resulting in an increase of water loss on exposure to air by evaporation. Another factor that will have an obvious effect on a population is the reproductive output of the animals. Histological sections of the gonad of infected and non-infected females were cut to study the effects of both parasites on reproduction. Statistical tests comparing the numbers and sizes of oocytes in females infected with Proctoeces and non-infected females showed no significant differences. However, bucephalid sporocysts have a dramatic effect on reproduction by castrating the host, leaving no trace of sex products. One of the major factors shaping the composition of a mussel bed is competition for space and food, with smaller mussels being at a competitive disadvantage. Thus, in order to examine effects of both parasites on the competitive ability of Perna perna, summer and winter growth rates were compared for infected and non-infected mussels. Proctoeces reduced growth both in summer and in winter whilst bucephalid sporocysts had no significant effect. Both growth and reproduction are important components of the energy budget of an animal, and each is affected by either Proctoeces or the bucephalid sporocysts. In an attempt to test if Perna perna compensates energetically for these negative effects, filtration rates and oxygen consumption of mussels with and without parasites were measured. Neither parasite had a significant effect on filtration rates or oxygen consumption of the host. All these results indicate that both Proctoeces and the bucephalid sporocysts have a detrimental effect on their host, and that the mussels do not compensate for these negative effects. There is neither an increase in filtration, nor a decrease in respiration to balance the energy lost to the parasite. The two parasites studied affect the host in different but complementary ways. The effects of both parasites are concentrated on those size classes of mussel which channel most energy into the portion of the energy budget affected by the parasite. Proctoeces affects growth only in the smaller individuals, which under normal conditions would put most energy into growth; and the bucephalid sporocysts castrate the bigger mussels, which would expend most energy on reproduction. By reducing growth rates of small mussels or castrating large mussels, these parasites effectively remove them from the breeding population and reduce their competitive abilities. These negative effects, together with the high prevalence of both parasites in Perna perna along the South African coast and their absence in Mytilus galloprovincialis, suggest that parasites may be an important reason for the success of Mytilus.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Perna, Parasites, Mytilidae, Ecology
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology > Invertebrates
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Zoology & Entomology
Supervisors:McQuaid, C.D.
ID Code:3915
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:31 Oct 2012 14:31
Last Modified:31 Oct 2012 14:31
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