loading page

You are how you eat: stable isotopes unravel the feeding mode-trophic position relationship in trematode parasites
  • Amandine Sabadel,
  • Colin MacLeod
Amandine Sabadel
University of Otago

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Colin MacLeod
The University of British Columbia
Author Profile


Stable isotopes have been sporadically used over the last two decades to characterise host-parasite trophic relationships. The main reason for this scarcity is the lack of an obvious pattern in the nitrogen stable isotope values (δ15N) of parasites in comparison to their host tissues, which would be key to understand any host-parasite system dynamics. To circumvent this, we focused on a single snail host, Zeacumantus subcarinatus, and three of its trematode parasites. We used stable isotopes to investigate each host-trematode trophic relationship and shed light on the mechanisms utilised by the parasite to reroute its hosts’ biomass. All our trematodes were found to be 15N-enriched compared to their host, with their δ15N values strongly related to their feeding behaviours: passive vs active. It was possible to ‘rank’ these parasite species and assess their ‘relative’ trophic position using δ15N values. We also demonstrated that including a broader range of samples (e.g. host food and faeces, multiple parasite life stages) helped understand the metabolic mechanisms used by the various participants, and that using carbon stable isotope values and C:N ratios allowed to identify an important lipid requirement of these trematode parasites. Finally, we show how critical it is to not ignore parasitic infections as they can have a great influence on their host’s trophic position.