Co-authors: Gina Magro, Elizabeth VanDomelen, Roiya Meyer, Kao Lee Thao, Robert Jadin, and Sarah Orlofske, UW-Stevens Point
Title: Wetland connections: The correlation of parasites between ducks and snails collected from Mead Wildlife Area
Abstract: Wetlands provide feeding habitats for birds. One focus of management efforts is to maintain food resources necessary to support diverse and abundant bird populations. Parasites are one promising way to track species feeding interactions. Trematode parasites are linked to their vertebrate hosts through consumption, providing evidence of host diets. Likewise, trematodes need an intermediate host, usually a snail, to develop into their larval stages. Parasite infection in snails provides evidence of the presence of the final hosts. Our research objective is to compare parasite communities between snails and waterfowl collected from three sites in the George W. Mead State Wildlife Area. We collected 76 snails and 11 waterfowl samples and screened them for parasites. Any parasites found were collected, counted, and identified to the lowest taxonomic level possible. We observed 2-5 parasite morphotypes and a total prevalence of 36-40% infection in the snails. In comparison, eleven waterfowl hosts had 1-5 parasite morphotypes and all were infected with at least one species of flatworm. Our study revealed overlap in the parasite communities of snails and waterfowl. Echinostomes and Ribeiroia were found in both snails and waterfowl at two sites. Armatae was the most abundant parasite morphotype in the snails and could be one of several species that infect passerines like red-winged blackbirds or swallows. The differences in parasite communities could be due to the presence of other final hosts or to birds becoming infected from other locations while migrating. Identification of parasites to species will allow us to detect host-specific species that could be used as biological indicators for waterfowl or other wetland bird presence and diets.
View Poster: https://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Nicole-Wagner-Poster.Wagner.Nicole.pdf
Bio: Nicole Wagner-Lueck is a senior at UW-Stevens Point studying biology and conservation biology. Nicole was recruited to the waterfowl parasitology lab by her advisor Dr. Sarah Orlofske during her junior year. Nicole enjoys the outdoors in many ways, and this lab has opened her eyes in different ways to think about ecosystems and how parasites are important organisms in them.