This article documents the large-scale spatial distribution and ecological descriptors of associated habitats of Bulinus depressus by analysis of samples taken from 552 collection sites on record in the database of the National Freshwater Snail Collection (NFSC) at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. This snail species is experimentally susceptible to Schistosoma margrebowiei, a helminth parasite of game animals and cattle and can possibly also exploit humans as definitive hosts. The 125 different loci (1/16 degree squares) on record reflect a geographical distribution that is largely limited to the central and western part of the Limpopo Province and westwards down the basins of the Vaal and Orange Rivers. Details of each habitat as described by collectors during surveys, as well as altitude and mean annual air temperature and rainfall for each locality, were processed and chi-square and effect size values calculated. A decision tree constructed from all the available data indicated that temperature and altitude, followed by the type of water-body, seemed to be the more important factors that significantly influenced the distribution of this species in South Africa. The possible role of this species as intermediate host of economically important helminth species is briefly looked at and the urgent need to update the geographical distribution of host snails is emphasised. It is recommended that efforts be made to determine the exact role of B. depressus in the epidemiology of economically important helminth parasites.
Keywords: Bulinus depressus, geographical distribution, habitat preferences, Schistosoma margrebowiei
Water SA Vol. 31(4) 2005: 491-496