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Intra-specific host sharing in the manipulative parasite Acanthocephalus dirus: does conflict occur over host modification?

  • T. C. SPARKES (a1), V. M. WRIGHT (a1) (a2), D. T. RENWICK (a1), K. A. WEIL (a1) (a3), J. A. TALKINGTON (a1) and M. MILHALYOV (a1)...

The acanthocephalan parasite Acanthocephalus dirus induces a colour change in the intermediate host, the aquatic isopod Caecidotea intermedius, which increases transmission to definitive hosts (creek chub, sunfish). We examined the potential for conflict to occur between infective (cystacanth) and non-infective (acanthor, acanthella) stages of A. dirus over the level of colour modification that should be induced when these stages share a host. Using a field survey, we showed that host sharing by infective and non-infective stages was relatively common and that infective and non-infective stages differed in their effects on colour modification. Non-infective stages induced a colour change over 40% of the body, whereas infective stages induced a colour change over 80%. Thus, conflict could occur between stages over the level of modification that should be induced. We then showed that mixed-stage infections induced a colour change in the host that was consistent with the level of modification induced by the infective stage. We discuss the potential significance of these results to patterns of host modification and their effects on stage-related survival in nature.

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