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Endoparasites in common eiders Somateria mollissima from birds killed by an oil spill in the northern Wadden Sea
Thieltges, D.W.; Hussel, B.; Baekgaard, H. (2006). Endoparasites in common eiders Somateria mollissima from birds killed by an oil spill in the northern Wadden Sea. J. Sea Res. 55(4): 301-308
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Aquatic birds; Diseases; Endoparasites; Fish kill; Oil spills; Acanthocephala [WoRMS]; Cestoda [WoRMS]; Nematoda [WoRMS]; Somateria mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Trematoda [WoRMS]; ANE, Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Sylt I. [Marine Regions]; ANE, Wadden Sea [Marine Regions]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Thieltges, D.W., more
  • Hussel, B.
  • Baekgaard, H.

Abstract
    Mass mortalities of common eiders Somateria mollissima have been ascribed to high parasite loads. However, the actual role of parasites in mortalities is disputed as in the case of a mass mortality of eiders in the Wadden Sea in the winter of 1999/2000. A critical evaluation of the role of parasites in eider mass mortalities is hampered by (1) a lack of data on actual parasite loads of the birds involved, (2) missing regional data for comparison, and (3) a lack of unbiased samples: investigations are often based on dead beached individuals, which are presumably the more heavily infected birds of a population and thus more likely to die and be washed ashore. Although published data on parasite loads in birds of the winter 1999/2000 mortality are available, no data on background parasitism in eiders from the Wadden Sea exist, making an evaluation of the potential role of parasites in this mortality event difficult. By investigating endoparasites of 102 eiders affected by an oil spill in the northern Wadden Sea in winter 1998/1999, we provide a data set of background parasitism in wintering eiders from the Wadden Sea. We found 13 different parasite taxa with high prevalence values (% infected birds) in the acanthocephalan Profilicollis botulus, the nematode Amidostomum acutum, cestodes and trematodes. In some taxa we observed pronounced differences in prevalence values between juvenile eiders and adults, as well as between adult sexes. The parasite composition shows that bivalves, crabs (Carcinus maenas) and other crustaceans are important sources of infections by being intermediate hosts. This is partly mirrored in the food content of eider stomachs where bivalves and crabs were predominantly found. Intensities of the acanthocephalan P. botulus, suspected of causing eider mortalities, were especially high in juveniles (1112 ± 416 ind per infected host), but lower in adult males (40 ± 7) and adult females (81 ± 18). However, no extraordinary mortality event was observed in the winter of 1998/1999, indicating no or a very weak effect of the parasites on host condition. A comparison with the parasite loads of eiders from the mass mortality in the winter of 1999/2000 shows that parasite numbers were by no means exceptional for birds from the area. Hence, parasites alone are unlikely to have caused this mortality. Regional background parasite loads are important to differentiate between primary and secondary roles of parasites in anomalous mortality events.

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