Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 10, pp 1399–1405 | Cite as

Behavioral adjustments of a pipefish to bacterial Vibrio challenge

  • Susanne H. Landis
  • Josefin Sundin
  • Gunilla Rosenqvist
  • Olivia Roth
Original Paper


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.


Behavioral chills Global warming Temperature Host–parasite Syngnathus typhle Vibrio spp 



Funding was provided by the Volkswagen Foundation and the future ocean excellence cluster (to SHL and OR), Zoologiska stiftelsen and Inez Johanssons stiftelse (JS), and the Norwegian Research Council (grant number 186163/V40) (GR). We thank R. Höglund, S. Birrer, J. Goldhammer, K. Lohbeck, and P. Schubert for the field assistance; A. Berglund for providing the field equipment; and Ar Research Station for the working facilities. We thank J. Frommen for the input during the review process of this manuscript and for the statistical advice.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The experiment was performed according to current national legislation on Animal Welfare under licence Dnr S 155-09 from the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (project: “Effects of global change on the immunological interaction of pipefish and their natural bacterial communities”).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne H. Landis
    • 1
  • Josefin Sundin
    • 2
  • Gunilla Rosenqvist
    • 3
    • 4
  • Olivia Roth
    • 1
  1. 1.Evolutionary Ecology of Marine FishesHelmholtz Centre of Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)KielGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC)Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Department of BiologyGotland University CollegeVisbySweden

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