Parasitology Research

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 199–206 | Cite as

Competitive growth, energy allocation, and host modification in the acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus dirus: field data

  • Sara C. Caddigan
  • Alaina C. Pfenning
  • Timothy C. SparkesEmail author
Original Paper


The acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus dirus is a trophically transmitted parasite that modifies both the physiology and behavior of its intermediate host (isopod) prior to transmission to its definitive host (fish). Infected isopods often contain multiple A. dirus individuals and we examined the relationships between host sharing, body size, energy content, and host modification to determine if host sharing was costly and if these costs could influence the modification of host behavior (mating behavior). Using field-based measures of parasite energy content (glycogen, lipid) and parasite body size (volume), we showed that host sharing was costly in terms of energy content but not in terms of body size. Analysis of the predictors of host behavior revealed that energy content, and body size, were not predictors of host behavior. Of the variables examined, parasite intensity was the only predictor of host behavior. Hosts that contained more parasites were less likely to be modified (i.e., less likely to undergo mating suppression). We suggest that intraspecific competition influenced parasite energy content and that the costs associated with competition are likely to shape the strategy of growth and energy allocation adopted by the parasites. These costs did not appear to have a direct effect on the modification of host mating behavior.


Caecidotea intermedius Mating suppression Glycogen Lipid Body size 



Funding was provided by DePaul University through the Paid Leave Program (University Research Council), a Competitive Research Grant (University Research Council), a Faculty Summer Research Grant (College of Science and Health), the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program, the Undergraduate Summer Research Program and the Department of Biological Sciences. Amit Raj and Sarah Blackstock assisted in the field.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

The study was performed in compliance with national laws and regulations.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara C. Caddigan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alaina C. Pfenning
    • 1
  • Timothy C. Sparkes
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesDePaul UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Kirksville College of Osteopathic MedicineA. T. Still University of Health SciencesKirksvilleUSA

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