New paper out

How invasive oysters can affect parasite infection patterns in native mussels on a large spatial scale

Goedknegt, M. A., Nauta, R., Markovic, M., Buschbaum, C., Folmer, E. O., Luttikhuizen, P. C., van der Meer, J., Waser, A. M., Wegner, K. M., Thieltges, D. W.

Oecologia 190(1): 99-113


There are surprisingly few field studies on the role of invasive species on parasite infection patterns in native hosts. We investigated the role of invasive Pacific oysters (Magallana gigas) in determining parasite infection levels in native blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) in relation to other environmental and biotic factors. Using hierarchical field sampling covering three spatial scales along a large intertidal ecosystem (European Wadden Sea), we found strong spatial differences in infection levels of five parasite species associated with mussels and oysters. We applied mixed models to analyse the associations between parasite prevalence and abundance in mussels and oysters, and 12 biological and environmental factors. For each parasite–host relationship, an optimal model (either a null, one-factor or two-factor model) was selected based on AIC scores. We found that the density of invasive oysters contributed to three of the 12 models. Other biological factors such as host size (six models), and the density of target or alternative host species (five models) contributed more frequently to the best models. Furthermore, for parasite species infecting both mussels and oysters, parasite population densities were higher in native mussels, attributed to the higher densities of mussels. Our results indicate that invasive species can affect parasite infection patterns in native species in the field, but that their relative contribution may be further mediated by other biological and environmental parameters. These results stress the usefulness of large-scale field studies for detailed assessments of the mechanisms underlying the impacts of invasive species on native host communities.

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