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Hairworm anti-predator strategy: a study of causes and consequences

  • F. PONTON (a1), C. LEBARBENCHON (a1) (a2), T. LEFÈVRE (a1), F. THOMAS (a1), D. DUNEAU (a1), L. MARCHÉ (a3), L. RENAULT (a3), D. P. HUGHES (a4) and D. G. BIRON (a1)...


One of the most fascinating anti-predator responses displayed by parasites is that of hairworms (Nematomorpha). Following the ingestion of the insect host by fish or frogs, the parasitic worm is able to actively exit both its host and the gut of the predator. Using as a model the hairworm, Paragordius tricuspidatus, (parasitizing the cricket Nemobius sylvestris) and the fish predator Micropterus salmoïdes, we explored, with proteomics tools, the physiological basis of this anti-predator response. By examining the proteome of the parasitic worm, we detected a differential expression of 27 protein spots in those worms able to escape the predator. Peptide Mass Fingerprints of candidate protein spots suggest the existence of an intense muscular activity in escaping worms, which functions in parallel with their distinctive biology. In a second step, we attempted to determine whether the energy expended by worms to escape the predator is traded off against its reproductive potential. Remarkably, the number of offspring produced by worms having escaped a predator was not reduced compared with controls.


Corresponding author

GEMI, UMR CNRS/IRD 2724, 911 av. Agropolis, BP 64501, 34394 Montpellier Cedex 5, France. Tel: +33 4 67 41 63 73. Fax: +33 4 67 41 62 99. E-mail:


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