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Ecological impacts of the microsporidian parasite Pleistophora mulleri on its freshwater amphipod host Gammarus duebeni celticus

  • N. J. FIELDING (a1), C. MacNEIL (a1), N. ROBINSON (a1), J. T. A. DICK (a1), R. W. ELWOOD (a1), R. S. TERRY (a2), Z. RUIZ (a3) and A. M. DUNN (a2)...

Abstract

The microsporidian parasite, Pleistophora mulleri, infects the abdominal muscle of the freshwater amphipod Gammarus duebeni celticus. We recently showed that P. mulleri infection was associated with G. d. celticus hosts being more vulnerable to predation by the invasive amphipod Gammarus pulex. Parasitized G. d. celticus also had a reduced ability to prey upon other co-occurring amphipods. We suggested the parasite may have pervasive influences on host ecology and behaviour. Here, we examine the association between P. mulleri parasitism and parameters influencing individual host fitness, behaviour and interspecific interactions. We also investigate the relationship between parasite prevalence and host population structure in the field. In our G. d. celticus study population, P. mulleri prevalence was strongly seasonal, ranging from 8·5% in summer to 44·9% in winter. The relative abundance of hosts with the heaviest parasite burden increased during summer, which coincided with high host mortality, suggesting that parasitism may regulate host abundance to some degree. Females were more likely to be parasitized than males and parasitized males were paired with smaller females than unparasitized males. Parasitism was associated with reduction in the host's activity level and reduced both its predation on the isopod Asellus aquaticus and aggression towards precopula pairs of the invasive G. pulex. We discuss the pervasive influence of this parasite on the ecology of its host.

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Government Laboratory, Ballakermeen Road, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 4BR. Tel: +44 01392 861971. Fax: +44 02890 335877.

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Keywords

Ecological impacts of the microsporidian parasite Pleistophora mulleri on its freshwater amphipod host Gammarus duebeni celticus

  • N. J. FIELDING (a1), C. MacNEIL (a1), N. ROBINSON (a1), J. T. A. DICK (a1), R. W. ELWOOD (a1), R. S. TERRY (a2), Z. RUIZ (a3) and A. M. DUNN (a2)...

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