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Data from: Relative importance of chemical attractiveness to parasites for susceptibility to trematode infection

Cite this dataset

Langeloh, Laura; Seppälä, Otto (2019). Data from: Relative importance of chemical attractiveness to parasites for susceptibility to trematode infection [Dataset]. Dryad.


While the host immune system is often considered the most important physiological mechanism against parasites, pre-contact mechanisms determining exposure to parasites may also affect infection dynamics. For instance, chemical cues released by hosts can attract parasite transmission stages. We used the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis and its trematode parasite Echinoparyphium aconiatum to examine the role of host chemical attractiveness, physiological condition and immune function in determining its susceptibility to infection. We assessed host attractiveness through parasite chemo-orientation behaviour, physiological condition through host body size, food consumption, and respiration rate, and immune function through two immune parameters (phenoloxidase-like and antibacterial activity of haemolymph) at an individual level. We found that although snails showed high variation in chemical attractiveness to E. aconiatum cercariae, this did not determine their overall susceptibility to infection. This was because large body size increased attractiveness, but also increased metabolic activity that reduced overall susceptibility. High metabolic rate indicates fast physiological processes, including immune activity. The examined immune traits, however, showed no association with susceptibility to infection. Our results indicate that post-contact mechanisms were more likely to determine snail susceptibility to infection than variation in attractiveness to parasites. These may include localized immune responses in the target tissue of the parasite. The lack of a relationship between food consumption and attractiveness to parasites contradicts earlier findings that show food deprivation reducing snail attractiveness. This suggests that although variation in resource level over space and time can alter infection dynamics, variation in chemical attractiveness may not contribute to parasite-induced fitness variation within populations when individuals experience similar environmental conditions.

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