The role of trematode parasites as a nutritional food source for higher trophic level consumers
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 15:59 by Keira M. McKee
Recently, there has been a call for the inclusion of free-living stages of trematode parasites in food web models as they are present in high numbers in aquatic ecosystems and serve as prey for higher trophic levels. I investigated the presence of lipids in cercariae, specifically neutral energy reserve lipid stores and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), as they are considered the primary energy currency in aquatic ecosystems. Cercariae of all investigated taxa contained distinct neutral lipid compositions and Ribeiroia ondatrae cercariae had significant quantities of total lipids, as well as essential fatty acids (EFA). I also investigated the viability of cercariae as prey items for dragonfly larvae (Leucorrhinia intacta) and detected indistinguishable proportions of EFA in larvae subsisting on equivalent quantities of R. ondatrae and Daphnia spp. This suggests that cercariae may contribute to nutrient subsidies in aquatic ecosystems, thereby supporting aquatic organism growth and fitness.