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Parasite-induced colour alteration of intermediate hosts increases ingestion by suitable final host species

Thunken, T and Baldauf, SA and Bersau, N and Frommen, JG and Bakker, TCM (2019) Parasite-induced colour alteration of intermediate hosts increases ingestion by suitable final host species. Behaviour, 156 (13-14). pp. 1329-1348. ISSN 0005-7959

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Abstract

© 2019 by The authors. Parasites with complex life cycles often alter the phenotypic appearance of their intermediate hosts in order to facilitate ingestion by the final host. However, such manipulation can be costly as it might increase ingestion by less suitable or dead-end hosts as well. Species-specific parasitic manipulation is a way to enhance the transmission to suitable final hosts. Here, we experimentally show that the altered body colouration of the intermediate host Gammarus pulex caused by its acanthocephalan parasite Pomphorhynchus laevis differently affects predation by different fish species (barbel, perch, ruffe, brown trout and two populations of three-spined stickleback) depending on their suitability to act as final host. Species that were responsive to colour manipulation in a predation experiment were more susceptible to infection with P. laevis than unresponsive species. Furthermore, three-spined stickleback from different populations responded to parasite manipulation in opposite directions. Such increased ingestion of the intermediate host by preferred and suitable hosts suggests fine-tuned adaptive parasitic manipulation and sheds light on the ongoing evolutionary arms race between hosts and manipulative parasites.

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