Cercariae of many digenean trematodes target particular developmental stages of their hosts. For some digeneans that are parasites of amphibians, infection appears timed to host metamorphosis. The success and timing of metamorphosis is itself affected by a number of factors, including host density. We investigated the degree to which rearing density of Rana pipiens larvae influenced time to metamorphosis and snout-to-vent length and mass at metamorphosis, as well as establishment of cercariae of the trematode Manodistomum syntomentera Stafford, 1905. As expected, individuals metamorphosed later, were smaller, and weighed less at metamorphosis if they were reared under intermediate to high densities compared with low densities, in experimental outdoor mesocosms. Cercariae establishment was higher in smaller metamorphs that took longer to metamorphose within the low-density treatment. Additionally, cercariae establishment was lower in larvae from the low-density tanks compared with larvae from the intermediate- to high-density tanks. However, more tadpoles had failed to metamorphose in the intermediate to high rearing densities by the time cercariae were no longer available from natural collections of first intermediate hosts, Physa spp. Larval amphibians under crowded conditions should experience increased susceptibility to trematode establishment in nature, but only if they metamorphose within the time period when cercariae are still available.
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