Small worms, big appetites: ratios of different functional morphs in relation to interspecific competition in trematode parasites.
Interactions among different parasite species within hosts can be important factors shaping the evolution of parasite and host populations. Within snail hosts, antagonistic interactions among trematode species, such as competition and predation, can influence parasite abundance and diversity. In the present study we examined the strength of antagonistic interactions between 2 marine trematodes (Maritrema novaezealandensis and Philophthalmus sp.) in naturally infected Zeacumantus subcarinatus snails. We found approximately the same number of snails harbouring both species as would be expected by chance given the prevalence of each. However, snails infected with only M. novaezealandensis and snails with M. novaezealandensis and Philophthalmus sp. co-occurring were smaller than snails harbouring only Philophthalmus sp. In addition, the number of Philophthalmus sp. rediae was not affected by the presence of M. novaezealandensis sporocysts and the within-host clonal diversity of M. novaezealandensis was not influenced by the presence of Philophthalmus sp. Our results suggest that antagonistic interactions may not be a major force influencing the evolution of these trematodes and that characteristics such as host size and parasite infection longevity are shaping their abundance and population dynamics.