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Parasite infection disrupts escape behaviour in fish shoals

Citation

Demandt, Nicolle et al. (2020), Parasite infection disrupts escape behaviour in fish shoals, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5dv41ns46

Abstract

Many prey species have evolved collective responses to avoid predation. They rapidly transfer information about potential predators to trigger and coordinate escape waves. Predation avoidance behaviour is often manipulated by trophically transmitted parasites, to facilitate their transmission to the next host. We hypothesised that the presence of infected, behaviourally altered individuals might disturb the spread of escape waves. We used the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus, which increases risk-taking behaviour and decrease social responsiveness of its host, the three spined stickleback, to test this hypothesis. Three subgroups of sticklebacks were placed next to one another in separate compartments with shelter. The middle subgroup contained either uninfected or infected sticklebacks. We confronted an outer subgroup with an artificial bird strike, and studied how the escape response spread through the subgroups. With uninfected sticklebacks in the middle, escape waves spread rapidly through the entire shoal and fish remained in shelter thereafter. With infected sticklebacks in the middle, the escape wave was disrupted and uninfected fish did hardlyrarely used the shelter. Infected individuals can disrupt the transmission of flight responses, thereby not only increasing their own predation risk but also that of their uninfected shoal members. Our study uncovers a potentially far-reaching fitness consequence of grouping with infected individuals.

Funding

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, Award: 91557716