Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Hidden diversity in snails: parasites

Snails are common and conspicuous inhabitants of intertidal environments worldwide. What many people don’t know is that there is a hidden diversity in snails: parasites. These parasites are mainly trematodes infecting the gonads and digestive glands of the snails (see arrow in photo below), leading to host castration and other negative effects. While of great ecological importance, the diversity and distribution of trematodes in snails is poorly known.

We are looking for a MSc student to help change this. The project will involve sampling several species of Littorina in the Wadden Sea and possibly elsewhere in Europe. Trematodes will be identified morphologically to investigate parasite diversity patterns on local, regional and continental scales. In addition, molecular investigations on selected parasite species will identify large-scale population structure. The project will thus involve fieldwork, dissections of snails and molecular analyses. It is part of a larger project on the global biogeography of trematodes in Littorina spp. The exact focus will be flexible and can include or exclude the molecular part.

Is this something for you? Do you like to work in the field, but also enjoy lab work? Are you interested in learning about biogeographic analyses and molecular methods? Do you want to experience an international research collaboration and participate in a publication? You will be based at NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on Texel.

Period: approximately 6 months over the summer.

Contact: David Thieltges or Pieternella Luttikhuizen