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Parasitology. 2005 Feb;130(Pt 2):177-83.

Chronology of parasite-induced alteration of fish behaviour: effects of parasite maturation and host experience.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 3M4.


We monitored temporal changes in the magnitude of altered host behaviour in minnows (Pimephales promelas) experimentally infected with metacercariae of a brain-encysting trematode (Ornithodiplostomum ptychocheilus). This parasite develops and then encysts in a region of the brain that mediates the optomotor response (OMR), an innate behaviour that links visual stimuli with motor performance. The OMR of infected and uninfected minnows was evaluated between 0 and 10 weeks post-infection (p.i.), an interval spanning the development period of metacercariae to infectivity in birds. Trials involved monitoring the time an individual minnow spent following a spinning drum that had been painted with alternating black and white stripes. At 2 and 4 weeks p.i., infected minnows followed the drum 40% less often than controls. Differences between controls and infected fish declined thereafter, and were undetectable by 10 weeks p.i. Both control and infected fish habituated equally rapidly to the spinning drum. However, the difference in performance between controls and infected fish was 29% for experienced fish and 48% for fish that had never experienced the drum. Because maximum parasite-induced reduction in OMR coincided with the period of maximum parasite development, the behavioural effects are most likely due to unavoidable pathology in the brain associated with developing larvae.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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