Heat sensitivity of first host and cercariae may restrict parasite transmission in a warming sea

Dakeishla M. Díaz-Morales, Claudia Bommarito, Jahangir Vajedsamiei, Daniel S. Grabner, Gil Rilov, Martin Wahl, Bernd Sures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To predict global warming impacts on parasitism, we should describe the thermal tolerance of all players in host–parasite systems. Complex life-cycle parasites such as trematodes are of particular interest since they can drive complex ecological changes. This study evaluates the net response to temperature of the infective larval stage of Himasthla elongata, a parasite inhabiting the southwestern Baltic Sea. The thermal sensitivity of (i) the infected and uninfected first intermediate host (Littorina littorea) and (ii) the cercarial emergence, survival, self-propelling, encystment, and infection capacity to the second intermediate host (Mytilus edulis sensu lato) were examined. We found that infection by the trematode rendered the gastropod more susceptible to elevated temperatures representing warm summer events in the region. At 22 °C, cercarial emergence and infectivity were at their optimum while cercarial survival was shortened, narrowing the time window for successful mussel infection. Faster out-of-host encystment occurred at increasing temperatures. After correcting the cercarial emergence and infectivity for the temperature-specific gastropod survival, we found that warming induces net adverse effects on the trematode transmission to the bivalve host. The findings suggest that gastropod and cercariae mortality, as a tradeoff for the emergence and infectivity, will hamper the possibility for trematodes to flourish in a warming ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1174
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 21 Jan 2022

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