Ecological modulation of environmental stress: interactions between ultraviolet radiation, epibiotic snail embryos, plants and herbivores


*Correspondence author. E-mail:


  • 1The distribution of egg masses of the freshwater snails Lymnaea stagnalis and Planorbarius corneus on the undersides of water lily leaves (e.g. Nuphar lutea) is related to the prevalence of the leaf-mining beetle Galerucella nymphaeae.
  • 2When given the choice, Planorbarius significantly avoids leaves that were infested by the mining beetle. Conversely, Lymnaea did not discriminate against mined leaves.
  • 3Intact Nuphar leaves block over 95% of incident ultraviolet radiation. Yet, ultraviolet transmission reaches almost 100% under beetle mining scars. These are several times wider than snail embryos.
  • 4When exposed to natural sunlight, Lymnaea embryos proved to be resistant to ambient ultraviolet, while Planorbarius embryos were rapidly killed. Thus, one selective advantage of Planorbarius discrimination against mined leaves when depositing its eggs could be the avoidance of ultraviolet radiation passing through mining scars.
  • 5Other mining-related modifications of the leaves, reduced area, decreased longevity, altered aufwuchs (i.e. biofilm and epibionts) are discussed but seem less relevant for the oviposition preference of Planorbarius.
  • 6The discriminatory behaviour of this snail species was triggered by water-borne cues emitted by the damaged leaf, not by the eggs or larvae of the beetle.
  • 7This study illustrates how environmental stress on a given species, ultraviolet radiation in this case, can be ecologically buffered (shading by Nuphar) or enhanced (reduction of Nuphar shading through beetle mining) by associated species. It highlights how the impact of a given stress depends on the identity of the target species as well as on the identity and role of other species in the community.