The Effect of Schistocephalus Solidus (Cestoda: Pseudophyllidea) On the Foraging and Shoaling Behaviour of Three-Spined Sticklebacks, Gasterosteus Aculeatus

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Fish Behaviour and Ecology Group, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biol-ogy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ Scotland, U.K.
  • 2 Fish Behaviour and Ecology Group, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biol-ogy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ Scotland, U.K.

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Abstract

In this paper we review recent experimental work on the effects of the parasite Schistocephalus solidus (Cestoda: Pseudophyllidea) on the feeding behaviour of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.). We also discuss how increased feeding motivation and subsequent altered foraging behaviour may be a mechanism for parasite-associated changes in the shoaling behaviour of infected sticklebacks. The presence of S. solidus plerocercoids in the body cavity constricts the stomach, increases the handling time for large prey and consequently reduces the profitability of such prey for infected fish. This is reflected in a switch in dietary preference from large to small prey in the laboratory and in altered stomach contents and impaired nutrient reserves in the wild. By altering their hosts' nutritional state by direct competition for nutrients from digested food (and possibly indirectly by altering diet and reducing competitive ability) and also by altering the fishes' appearance, such parasites have the potential to alter the costs and benefits involved in joining a shoal of conspecifics. Experimental work on the shoaling decisions of S. solidus-infected sticklebacks supports this hypothesis, and such behavioural modification is discussed in the context of the manipulation hypothesis of parasite transmission.

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