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Oecologia. 2007 Nov;154(2):369-75. Epub 2007 Aug 23.

Epidemiology of a Daphnia brood parasite and its implications on host life-history traits.

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Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600, Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Parasites influence host life-history traits and therefore might crucially shape host populations in natural systems. In a series of laboratory experiments, we studied the impact of an oomycete brood parasite on its Daphnia (waterflea) host. We asked whether Daphnia dump the infected brood and subsequently are able to reproduce again as was occasionally observed in a preliminary study. No viable offspring developed from infected clutches, but 78% of the infected females produced healthy offspring after releasing the infected brood while molting. Neither those offsprings' development success nor their mothers' reproductive potential was affected by the brood parasite. However, infected Daphnia had a reduced life-span and suffered an increased susceptibility to another parasite, an unidentified bacterium. Additionally, we studied the prevalence of this brood parasite and the unidentified bacterium in a natural Daphnia assemblage in a pre-alpine lake, across changing demographic and environmental conditions. The brood parasite epidemic seemed to be host-density dependent. Our results show that the brood parasite's impact on the host population is enhanced when combined with the unidentified bacterium.

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