ABSTRACT: In benthic habitats, predators can generally not be detected visually, so olfaction may be particularly important for inducing anti-predation behaviors in prey organisms. Manipulative parasites infecting benthic hosts could suppress these responses so as to increase the probability of predation and thus trophic transmission. We studied how infection with the acanthocephalan Echinorhynchus borealis affects the response of the benthic amphipod Pallasea quadrispinosa to water conditioned by burbot (Lota lota), the parasite's definitive host. In normal lake water, refuge use by infected and uninfected amphipods was similar, but when exposed to burbot-conditioned water, uninfected amphipods spent much more time hiding than infected amphipods. Thus, rather than affecting ambient hiding behavior, E. borealis infection seems to alter host response to a predator. A group of amphipods sampled from a post-glacial spring that is devoid of fish predators exhibited only a weak response to burbot-conditioned water, perhaps suggesting these anti-predator behaviors are costly to maintain. The hiding behavior of spring and infected amphipods was very similar. If the reduced refuge use by the spring amphipods reflects adaptation to a predator-free environment, this indicates that E. borealis severely weakens its host's anti-predator behavior. Presumably, this increases the likelihood of parasite transmission.
Journal of Parasitology 03/2008; · 1.40 Impact Factor