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Parasitism and growth in the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris: fitness costs of the gregarine parasite Monocystis sp.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2004

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Animal Ecology and Evolution, Universität Münster, Hüfferstrasse 1, 48149 Münster, Germany
Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Animal Ecology and Evolution, Universität Münster, Hüfferstrasse 1, 48149 Münster, Germany


Parasites inflict fitness costs on their hosts, but often the exact reduction in fitness is not well understood. We investigated the influence of infection by the gregarine genus Monocystis sp. on growth and female investment (cocoon production) of its earthworm host, Lumbricus terrestris. Earthworms (n=81) were observed in a laboratory setting for 8 months, after which parasite load was determined. The results revealed a significant negative relationship between parasite load and growth, yet no association to cocoon production was found. Although the exact nature, strength, and evolutionary consequence of reduced growth are still unclear, the results are the first indication for a clear, albeit weak effect of Monocystis on host fitness.

Research Article
2005 Cambridge University Press

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