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Non-Specific Manipulation of Gammarid Behaviour by P. minutus Parasite Enhances Their Predation by Definitive Bird Hosts

Abstract : Trophically-transmitted parasites often change the phenotype of their intermediate hosts in ways that increase their vulnerability to definitive hosts, hence favouring transmission. As a ''collateral damage'', manipulated hosts can also become easy prey for non-host predators that are dead ends for the parasite, and which are supposed to play no role in transmission strategies. Interestingly, infection with the acanthocephalan parasite Polymorphus minutus has been shown to reduce the vulnerability of its gammarid intermediate hosts to non-host predators, whose presence triggered the behavioural alterations expected to favour trophic transmission to bird definitive hosts. Whilst the behavioural response of infected gammarids to the presence of definitive hosts remains to be investigated, this suggests that trophic transmission might be promoted by non-host predation risk. We conducted microcosm experiments to test whether the behaviour of P. minutus-infected gammarids was specific to the type of predator (i.e. mallard as definitive host and fish as non-host), and mesocosm experiments to test whether trophic transmission to bird hosts was influenced by non-host predation risk. Based on the behaviours we investigated (predator avoidance, activity, geotaxis, conspecific attraction), we found no evidence for a specific fine-tuned response in infected gammarids, which behaved similarly whatever the type of predator (mallard or fish). During predation tests, fish predation risk did not influence the differential predation of mallards that over-consumed infected gammarids compared to uninfected individuals. Overall, our results bring support for a less sophisticated scenario of manipulation than previously expected, combining chronic behavioural alterations with phasic behavioural alterations triggered by the chemical and physical cues coming from any type of predator. Given the wide dispersal range of waterbirds (the definitive hosts of P. minutus), such a manipulation whose efficiency does not depend on the biotic context is likely to facilitate its trophic transmission in a wide range of aquatic environments.
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Lisa Jacquin, Quentin Mori, Mickaël Pause, Mélanie Steffen, Vincent Medoc. Non-Specific Manipulation of Gammarid Behaviour by P. minutus Parasite Enhances Their Predation by Definitive Bird Hosts. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2014, 9 (7), pp.e101684. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0101684⟩. ⟨hal-01361821⟩

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