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Fecampia erythrocephala rediscovered: prevalence and distribution of a parasitold of the European shore crab, Carcinus maenas


An ecological assessment of Fecampia erythrocephala, reporting its habitat distribution, abundance, host specificity, size-specific prevalence, frequency distribution among hosts, effect on host growth, and its site specificity within these hosts is presented. At the Isle of Man and near Plymouth, Fecampia erythrocephala cocoons were generally abundant on the undersides of rocks in the Ascophyllum and Fucus serratus zones. Infected crabs were also most common in these habitats. Both Carcinus maenas and Cancer pagurus were parasitized at similar prevalences, although the former species was relatively much more common in the habitats where the worm cocoons were abundant. Fecampia erythrocephala did not infect crabs larger than I I mm carapace width, and prevalence decreased significantly with crab size. Prevalences reached 11% in areas where cocoons were abundant. Together with the large size of these worms relative to the size of the host crabs and the observations on worm emergence, these life history features indicate that F. erythrocephala is a parasitoid of young shore crabs. Fecampla erythrocephala cocoon abundance is often high in localized areas and size-prevalence information suggests that worms mature rapidly in these crabs. This suggests that F erythrocephala is an important contributor to crab mortality and to the ecology of shore crabs at these sites.

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