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Parasite infection and host personality: Glugea-infected three-spined sticklebacks are more social

Petkova, Irina, Abbey-Lee, Robin N., Løvlie, Hanne
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2018 v.72 no.11 pp. 173
Gasterosteus aculeatus, Glugea, aggression, animal behavior, fish, host-parasite relationships, hosts, microsporidiosis, parasites, parasitism, social behavior
The existence of animal personality is now well-documented, although the causes and consequences of this phenomenon are still largely unclear. Parasite infection can have pervasive effects on hosts, including altering host behaviour, and may thus contribute to differences in host personality. We investigated the relationship between the three-spined stickleback and its common parasite Glugea anomala, with focus on differences in host personality. Naturally infected and uninfected individuals were assayed for the five personality traits activity, exploration, boldness, sociability, and aggression. If infected fish behaved differently from uninfected, to benefit this parasite with horizontal transmission, we predicted behaviour increasing interactions with other sticklebacks to increase. Infection status explained differences in host personality. Specifically, Glugea-infected individuals were more social than uninfected fish. This confirms a link between parasite infection and host behaviour, and a relationship which may improve the horizontal transmission of Glugea. However, future studies need to establish the consequences of this for the parasite, and the causality of the parasite-host personality relationship. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Parasite infection that alters host behaviour could be a possible avenue of research into the causes of animal personality. We studied the link between infection and personality using the three-spined stickleback and its parasite Glugea anomala. We predicted that infected individuals would be more prone to interact with other sticklebacks, since this would improve transmission of this parasite. The personality of uninfected and naturally infected fish was measured and we observed that Glugea-infected sticklebacks were more social. Our results confirm a link between parasitism and variation in host personality.