Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 January 2017
In this investigation, the host–parasite relationship of ninespine stickleback fish Pungitius pungitius and the cestode parasite Schistocephalus pungitii was studied using samples from Dog Bone Lake, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, to test the hypothesis that S. pungitii is a castrator of ninespine stickleback. Infected, adult females of all sizes (ages) were capable of producing clutches of eggs. S. pungitii had a negative effect on the ability of host females to produce a clutch, which was related to increasing parasite:host mass ratio (parasite index, PI). Among infected females with egg clutches, both clutch size and egg size were reduced; and the reduction increased with greater PI. The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that S. pungitii causes host sterility as a result of simple nutrient theft and is not a true castrator as hypothesized in earlier reports. The degree of parasite-induced sterility appears to vary among populations of the ninespine stickleback, perhaps reflecting differences in resource availability. Populations of ninespine stickleback appear to show a greater reduction in host reproductive capacity with PI than populations of the threespine stickleback infected by Schistocephalus solidus, possibly owing, in part, to the length-adjusted somatic mass of the threespine stickleback being greater.
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