, Volume 191, Issue 2, pp 285–294 | Cite as

Intensity-dependent energetic costs in a reciprocal parasitic relationship

  • Caroline Methling
  • Karel Douda
  • Martin ReichardEmail author
Physiological ecology – original research


Parasitic infections elicit host defences that pose energetic trade-offs with other fitness-related traits. Bitterling fishes and unionid mussels are involved in a two-way parasitic interaction. Bitterling exploit mussels by ovipositing into their gills. In turn, mussel larvae (glochidia) develop on the epidermis and gills of fish. Hosts have evolved behavioural responses to reduce parasite load, suggesting that glochidia and bitterling parasitism are costly. We examined the energetic cost of parasitism on both sides of this relationship. We used intermittent flow-through respirometry to measure (1) standard metabolic rate (SMR) of individual duck mussels Anodonta anatina (a common bitterling host) before and during infection by embryos of the European bitterling Rhodeus amarus, and (2) SMR and maximum oxygen uptake (MO2max) of individual R. amarus before and during infection with glochidia of the Chinese pond mussel Sinanodonta woodiana (a mussel species that successfully infects bitterling). As predicted, we observed an increase in mussel SMR when infected by bitterling embryos and an increased SMR in glochidia-infected bitterling, though this was significantly mediated by the time post-infection. Contrary to our predictions, glochidia infection did not impair MO2max and the number of glochidia attached to gills positively (rather than negatively) correlated with MO2max. The results suggest that tolerance is the prevailing coping mechanism for both fish and mussels when infected, while resistance mechanisms appear to be confined to the behavioural level.


Acheilognathinae Coevolution Evolutionary arms race Host–parasite relationship Unionidae 



This research was supported by Czech Science Foundation (19-5510S). We thank Carl Smith and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments.

Author contribution statement

CM, KD and MR conceived the study. CM performed the experimental work with the help of KD, CM analysed data and drafted the paper. All authors contributed to interpretation and writing.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyCzech Academy of SciencesBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and FisheriesCzech University of Life Sciences PraguePragueCzech Republic

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