Habitat selection and populations of Corynosoma (Acanthocephala) in the intestines of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and seals
Acanthocephalans are common intestinal parasites of marine mammals, the most widespread of which is the genus Corynosoma. In this study, parasite infrapopulations of two closely related species of Corynosoma were examined: Corynosoma enhydri from sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in Alaska (n = 12) and California (n = 19), and Corynosoma strumosum from seals in Germany (n = 22). Prevalence of C. enhydri was 100% in Californian otters, with a mean abundance of 30, and 83% in Alaskan otters, with a mean abundance of 232. In seals, C. strumosum had a prevalence of 65%, with a mean abundance of 33. Female C. enhydri dominated both Californian (82%) and Alaskan (79%) infections, while, in seals, female C. strumosum made up 68% of the parasite population. Reproduction rates for C. enhydri, with 16% (California) and 18% (Alaska) of females mated, were low compared to C. strumosum in seals, of which 40% of females were mated. Habitat selection also differed significantly between the two species. Corynosoma enhydri was found most frequently in the second and third fifths of the small intestine, while C. strumosum was found most frequently in the fourth. The differences in habitat selection and prevalence analysed in this study may be related to a trade-off between growth and reproduction between the two species.