, Volume 66, Issue 10, pp 1399-1405
Date: 11 Aug 2012

Behavioral adjustments of a pipefish to bacterial Vibrio challenge

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Abstract

Animals can profit from increasing temperatures by prolonged breeding seasons and faster growth rates. However, these fitness benefits are traded off against higher parasite load and increased virulence of temperature-sensitive pathogens. In thermally stratified habitats, behavioral plasticity can allow hosts to choose the optimal temperature to enhance individual fitness and to escape parasite pressure. To test this idea, we performed a temperature choice experiment with the host–parasite system of the sex-role reversed broad-nosed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) and its bacterial pathogen Vibrio spp. In this species, pregnant males are expected to face a trade-off between shortening their brooding period in warm water and decreasing the effect of the infection in cold water. We found that exposure to Vibrio changed the temperature preference for both pregnant and nonpregnant males, as well as females compared to nonchallenged fish that tended to prefer warm water. This study shows that behavioral plasticity is one option for avoidance of higher bacterial prevalence, as expected due to rising ocean temperatures.

Communicated by A. Pilastro
Susanne H. Landis and Josefin Sundin contributed equally to the manuscript