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Solo Schistocephalus solidus tapeworms are nasty


Trophically transmitted parasites must trade-off own growth on one hand and energy drain from the intermediate host on the other hand, since killing the host before transmission to the next host is a dead end for both parasites and hosts. This challenge becomes especially intriguing when multiple parasites find themselves within the same individual host. The tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus may gain more than 98% of its final body mass within few months infecting its three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) intermediate host. During these months the tapeworms may achieve a mass even larger than its host. We studied virulence of single and multiple infections of S. solidus, by comparing body condition of wild stickleback hosts in two perennial stickleback populations located at high latitudes, and each population was studied in two different years. Our results demonstrated multiple compared with single infections to be a highly significant predictor of the condition of stickleback hosts, with multiple-infected hosts having relatively higher body condition. However, this applied only after adjusting for parasite mass, which was another significant predictor for host condition. Thus, our results suggested that, at a given parasite mass, S. solidus was more harmful towards their host's body condition in single compared with multiple infections.

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*Corresponding author. Nord University, Universitetsalléen 1, NO-8026 Bodø, Norway. E-mail:
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