Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 June 2018
We performed a long-term natural experiment investigating the impact of the diphyllobotriidean cestode Schistocephalus solidus on the body condition and clutch size (CS) of threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, its second intermediate host, and the growth of larval parasites in host fish. We tested the hypothesis that single S. solidus infections were more virulent than multiple infections. We also asked whether the metrics of mean and total parasite mass (proxies for individual and total volume, respectively) were consistent with predictions of the resource constraints or the life history strategy (LHS) hypothesis for the growth of, hence exploitation by, larval helminths in intermediate hosts. The samples were drawn from Walby Lake, Alaska in eight of 11 years. Host body condition and CS (egg number per spawning bout) decreased significantly with intensity after adjustments for host size and parasite index. Thus, infections have an increasingly negative impact on measures of host fitness with greater intensity, in contrast to the hypothesis that single infections are more harmful than multiple infections. We also found that mean parasite mass decreased with intensity while total parasite mass increased with intensity as predicted by the LHS hypothesis.
Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.
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