The heterotrich ciliate Mirofolliculina limnoriae occurs in an obligate association with wood-boring species of the isopod Limnoria. It attaches to the dorsal surface of the limnoriid pleotelson. Folliculinid-bearing populations of Limnoria tripunctata from the Ria Formosa, Portugal, and of Limnoria quadripunctata from Portsmouth, UK, were sampled. Up to four folliculinids were found on one individual of L. quadripunctata and up to twelve on L. tripunctata. There was no evidence that folliculinid load increased with host size. The nature of the epibiont/basibiont relationship was examined by observing animals with and without epibionts, kept individually with small sticks of wood in cell culture wells over periods of up to 15 days. Faecal pellet production and moulting were recorded. In both host species, feeding rate as measured by faecal pellet production was significantly lower in animals bearing folliculinids. Feeding rate also diminished with the onset of moulting, but returned to the original rate within a week after moulting. The estimated intermoult period for the population of L. tripunctata examined was about 25 days and for L. quadripunctata was about 32 days. However, the proportion of individuals moulting over the period of observation declined with increasing size in L. tripunctata, suggesting increasing length of intermoult period with age. As the host faces toward the blind end of its tunnel and ventilates the burrow with its pleopods, the folliculinids are well placed to intercept particulate food in the incoming water stream. There are no clear advantages for the host in the association, but the suppression of feeding and the potential of the folliculinids to hinder swimming during dispersal migrations indicate that the association should be viewed as ectoparasitism rather than mutualism or commensalism.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Publication status||Published - 2006|