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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026365. Epub 2011 Oct 17.

Pathological and ecological host consequences of infection by an introduced fish parasite.

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Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change, School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University, Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom.


The infection consequences of the introduced cestode fish parasite Bothriocephalus acheilognathi were studied in a cohort of wild, young-of-the-year common carp Cyprinus carpio that lacked co-evolution with the parasite. Within the cohort, parasite prevalence was 42% and parasite burdens were up to 12% body weight. Pathological changes within the intestinal tract of parasitized carp included distension of the gut wall, epithelial compression and degeneration, pressure necrosis and varied inflammatory changes. These were most pronounced in regions containing the largest proportion of mature proglottids. Although the body lengths of parasitized and non-parasitized fish were not significantly different, parasitized fish were of lower body condition and reduced weight compared to non-parasitized conspecifics. Stable isotope analysis (δ(15)N and δ(13)C) revealed trophic impacts associated with infection, particularly for δ(15)N where values for parasitized fish were significantly reduced as their parasite burden increased. In a controlled aquarium environment where the fish were fed ad libitum on an identical food source, there was no significant difference in values of δ(15)N and δ(13)C between parasitized and non-parasitized fish. The growth consequences remained, however, with parasitized fish growing significantly slower than non-parasitized fish, with their feeding rate (items s(-1)) also significantly lower. Thus, infection by an introduced parasite had multiple pathological, ecological and trophic impacts on a host with no experience of the parasite.

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