Trophic relationships between the larvae of two freshwater mussels and their fish hosts

Marco Denic, Jens Eike Taeubert, Juergen Geist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Freshwater mussels of the order Unionoida have life cycles that include larval attachment to and later metamorphosis on suitable host fishes. Information on the trophic relationship between unionoid larvae and their host fishes is scarce. We investigated the trophic interaction between fish hosts and encysted larvae of two species of freshwater mussels, Margaritifera margaritifera and Unio crassus, using stable isotope analyses of larvae and juvenile mussels as well as of host fish gill and muscle tissues before and after infestation. Due to different life histories and durations of host-encystment, mass and size increase in M. margaritifera during the host-dependent phase were greater than those of U. crassus. δ13C and δ15N signatures of juvenile mussels approached isotopic signatures of fish tissues, indicating a parasitic relationship between mussels and their hosts. Shifts were more pronounced for M. margaritifera, which had a five-fold longer host-dependent phase than U. crassus. The results of this study suggest that stable isotope analyses are a valuable tool for characterizing trophic relationships and life history strategies in host-parasite systems. In the case of unionoid mussels, stable isotopic shifts of the larvae are indicative of the nutritional versus phoretic importance of the host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-135
Number of pages7
JournalInvertebrate Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Margaritifera margaritifera
  • Parasitism
  • Trophic transfer
  • Unio crassus


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