Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 October 2012
Behavioural alterations induced by parasites in their intermediate hosts can spatially structure host populations, possibly resulting in enhanced trophic transmission to definitive hosts. However, such alterations may also increase intermediate host vulnerability to non-host predators. Parasite-induced behavioural alterations may thus vary between parasite species and depend on each parasite definitive host species. We studied the influence of infection with 2 acanthocephalan parasites (Echinorhynchus truttae and Polymorphus minutus) on the distribution of the amphipod Gammarus pulex in the field. Predator presence or absence and predator species, whether suitable definitive host or dead-end predator, had no effect on the micro-distribution of infected or uninfected G. pulex amphipods. Although neither parasite species seem to influence intermediate host distribution, E. truttae infected G. pulex were still significantly more vulnerable to predation by fish (Cottus gobio), the parasite's definitive hosts. In contrast, G. pulex infected with P. minutus, a bird acanthocephalan, did not suffer from increased predation by C. gobio, a predator unsuitable as host for P. minutus. These results suggest that effects of behavioural changes associated with parasite infections might not be detectable until intermediate hosts actually come in contact with predators. However, parasite-induced changes in host spatial distribution may still be adaptive if they drive hosts into areas of high transmission probabilities.