Some polyclads associate with other marine invertebrates such as gastropods, but how these associations evolve is not well understood. This study examined the relationships between a polyclad, Stylochoplana pusilla, and six species of snails in 10 eulittoral sites in Mutsu Bay, northern Japan, in 2010 and 2011. Of the six potential host snail species, Monodonta labio was present at all sites and the prevalence of S. pusilla in the snails’ mantle cavities overall was 82.6%. Four other snail species occurred at fve or six sites in comparable densities, but of these, only Chlorostoma turbinatum and Omphalius rusticus had S. pusilla in their mantle cavities (prevalence of 42.0 and 15.4%). a congener of M. labio, Monodonta neritoides, occurred at only one site and had no S. pusilla. The mantle, which provides habitat space for S. pusilla, was proportionally the longest in M. labio. In laboratory experiments, the fatworms preferentially entered M. labio over other snail species with the same mantle length. Observed vertical distributions of snails in the littoral zone indicate that M. labio is present in the eulittoral at both high and low tides, while C. turbinatum and O. rusticus are usually found in the sublittoral. In an evolutionary sense, the relationship between S. pusilla and its host may have developed as a mechanism for the fatworm to avoid predation by living in the eulittoral and to avoid desiccation by establishing commensal relationships with certain snails.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science