Variation of parasite load and immune parameters in two species of New Zealand shore crabs
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While parasites are likely to encounter several potential intermediate hosts in natural communities, a parasite’s actual range of compatible hosts is limited by numerous biological factors ranging from behaviour to immunology. In crustaceans, two major components of immunity are haemocytes and the prophenoloxidase system involved in the melanisation of foreign particles. Here, we analysed metazoan parasite prevalence and loads in the two sympatric crab species Hemigrapsus crenulatus and Macrophthalmus hirtipes at two sites. In parallel, we analysed the variation in haemocyte concentration and amount of circulating phenoloxidase (PO) in the haemolymph of the same individuals in an attempt to (a) explain differences in parasite prevalence and loads in the two species at two sites and (b) assess the impact of parasites on these immune parameters. M. hirtipes harboured more parasites but also exhibited higher haemocyte concentrations than H. crenulatus independent of the study site. Thus, higher investment in haemocyte production for M. hirtipes does not seem to result in higher resistance to parasites. Analyses of variation in immune parameters for the two crab species between the two sites that differed in parasite prevalence showed common trends. (a) In general, haemocyte concentrations were higher at the site experiencing higher parasitic pressure while circulating PO activity was lower and (b) haemocyte concentrations were influenced by microphallid trematode metacercariae in individuals from the site with higher parasitic pressure. We suggest that the higher haemocyte concentrations observed in both crab species exposed to higher parasitic pressure may represent an adaptive response to the impact of parasites on this immune parameter.
KeywordsParasite Prevalence Sodium Cacodylate Buffer Carapace Width Immune Parameter Crab Species
The authors would like to thank the entire parasitology research group at the University of Otago; Karen Judge for providing equipment; Charlotte Seifert for assistance during field work and Jean-Baptiste Ferdy as well as Ning Liu for help with the programming in R. This project was funded by the Erasmus Mundus Program “European Master in Applied Ecology” (EMAE).
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