Abstract

Parasitic trematode worms leave characteristic pits in their bivalve mollusk hosts and represent an ideal system for analyzing parasite-host interactions through space and time with statistically meaningful sample sizes. Previous work in Late Pleistocene–Holocene sequences from the Po plain revealed significant long-term fluctuations in trematode prevalence values: higher prevalence in retrogradational environments (TST) and negligible prevalence in progradational environments (HST). Here we expand upon this work by investigating traces of parasitism, kleptoparasitism, and predation on mollusk death assemblages from two domains along the northern Adriatic coastline. The domain north of the Po delta (TST-like) and the southern domain (including the Po delta; HST-like) comprise environments comparable to those recovered in late Holocene (<6 Kyr) subsurface progradational deposits. We collected 17,299 specimens representing 111 species from 11 locations on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy. Our results reveal high predation pressure, a high diversity of host taxa, and widespread presence of trematode infestation in starved, oligotrophic, environmentally more stable (i.e., TST-like) settings north of the Po delta. Immediately south of the Po delta, in settings with strong and variable sedimentary input, almost no infestation is recorded. The reappearance of infestation is evident in the southern portion of the study area (i.e., Cattolica-Montemarciano), relatively far from the highly stressed environments south of the Po River. There is no significant difference in trematode prevalence values between fossil and modern samples. The distribution of spionid traces (an indicator of stressed environments) was nearly the opposite of that displayed by trematodes. Drilling frequency is highest in TST-like environments and is not correlated with diversity indices. These results suggest that temporal trends of trematode prevalence (and possibly also other biotic interactions) in sedimentary successions are controlled by environmental changes driven by glacio-eustatic dynamics, and reaffirm the importance of interpreting temporal trends in the context of spatial variation.

You do not currently have access to this article.