Parasite-related modification of mating behaviour and refuge use in the aquatic isopod Caecidotea intermedius: neurological correlates

in Behaviour
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The acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus dirus is a trophically transmitted parasite that infects freshwater isopods as intermediate hosts and fish as definitive hosts. Using a laboratory-based experiment, we examined if parasite infection was associated with changes in mating behaviour, refuge use and neurochemical levels of infected isopods (Caecidotea intermedius). Infected isopods were less likely to engage in mating behaviour and more likely to be located in the open than uninfected isopods. Infected isopods also contained lower levels of serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine (DA) and had a greater mass of neural tissue (CNS) than uninfected isopods. We propose that the parasite-related changes in mating behaviour and refuge use may be modulated by the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems. We also suggest that the parasites could potentially be modulating these behavioural changes by exploiting the neural-immune system of the hosts through their neuroinflammatory responses.

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