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An acanthocephalan parasite boosts the escape performance of its intermediate host facing non-host predators

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2008

Université Paul Verlaine-Metz, Laboratoire des Interactions Ecotoxicologie, Biodiversité, Ecosystèmes (LIEBE), CNRS UMR 7146, Campus Bridoux, rue du général Delestraint, F-57070 Metz, France
Université Paul Verlaine-Metz, Laboratoire des Interactions Ecotoxicologie, Biodiversité, Ecosystèmes (LIEBE), CNRS UMR 7146, Campus Bridoux, rue du général Delestraint, F-57070 Metz, France
*Corresponding author: Tel: +(0)3 87 37 84 29. Fax: +(0)3 87 37 84 23. E-mail:


Among the potential effects of parasitism on host condition, the ‘increased host abilities’ hypothesis is a counterintuitive pattern which might be predicted in complex-life-cycle parasites. In the case of trophic transmission, a parasite increasing its intermediate host's performance facing non-host predators improves its probability of transmission to an adequate, definitive host. In the present study, we investigated the cost of infection with the acanthocephalan Polymorphus minutus on the locomotor/escape performance of its intermediate host, the crustacean Gammarus roeseli. This parasite alters the behaviour of its intermediate host making it more vulnerable to predation by avian definitive hosts. We assessed the swimming speeds of gammarids using a stressful treatment and their escape abilities under predation pressure. Despite the encystment of P. minutus in the abdomen of its intermediate host, infected amphipods had significantly higher swimming speeds than uninfected ones (increases of up to 35%). Furthermore, when interacting with the non-host crustacean predator Dikerogammarus villosus, the highest escape speeds and greatest distances covered by invertebrates were observed for parasitized animals. The altered behaviour observed among the manipulated invertebrates supported the ‘increased host abilities’ hypothesis, which has until now remained untested experimentally. The tactic of increasing the ability of infected intermediate hosts to evade potential predation attempts by non-host species is discussed.

Original Articles
Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press

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