Parasites in the Wadden Sea food web

D.W. Thieltges, M.Y. Engelsma, C.C. Wendling, M. Wegner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


While the free-living fauna of the Wadden Sea has received much interest, little is known on the distribution and effects of parasites in the Wadden Sea food web. However, recent studies on this special type of trophic interaction indicate a high diversity of parasites in the Wadden Sea and suggest a multitude of effects on the hosts. This also includes effects on specific predator–prey relationships and the general structure of the food web. Focussing on molluscs, a major group in the Wadden Sea in terms of biomass and abundance and an important link between primary producers and predators, we review existing studies and exemplify the ecological role of parasites in the Wadden Sea food web. First, we give a brief inventory of parasites occurring in the Wadden Sea, ranging from microparasites (e.g. protozoa, bacteria) to macroparasites (e.g. helminths, parasitic copepods) and discuss the effects of spatial scale on heterogeneities in infection levels. We then demonstrate how parasites can affect host population dynamics by acting as a strong mortality factor, causing mollusc mass mortalities. In addition, we will exemplify how parasites can mediate the interaction strength of predator–prey relationships and affect the topological structure of the Wadden Sea food web as a whole. Finally, we highlight some ongoing changes regarding parasitism in the Wadden Sea in the course of global change (e.g. species introduction, climate change) and identify important future research questions to entangle the role of parasites in the Wadden Sea food web.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-133
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • cockle cerastoderma-edule
  • oyster crassostrea-gigas
  • mediated indirect interactions
  • periwinkle littorina-littorea
  • trematode renicola-roscovita
  • amphipod corophium-volutator
  • mussel mytilus-edulis
  • east frisian coast
  • sylt-romo bight
  • north-sea

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Parasites in the Wadden Sea food web'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this