Trematodes are parasitic flatworms with complex multi-host life cycles. Despite this complexity, almost all trematode parasites complete their first larval stages in mollusks, generally snails. During summer 2017, two undergraduates and I took advantage of this fact to explore the diversity of trematodes present in Vermont. We collected snails from freshwater lakes and ponds and brought them back to the lab to determine what trematodes are present locally. In particular, we aimed to identify trematode species that may have an impact on human health, such as those that cause cercarial dermatitis or ‘swimmer’s itch’, and any interactions that may occur between different trematode species within their snail hosts. Our hope is that this research will lay the groundwork for many exciting studies on the biology of trematodes in future years.
Below are some pictures of snails collected during preliminary sampling and the trematodes isolated from them. All of these snails and trematodes were collected from a single small wetland on Norwich University campus, and the diversity in the rest of the state is even greater! Check back soon for more results from our summer research.