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Two's a crowd? Crowding effect in a parasitic castrator drives differences in reproductive resource allocation in single vs double infections
- FONG, CAITLIN R., MORON, NANCY A., KURIS, ARMAND M.
- Parasitology 2017 v.144 no.5 pp. 662-668
- Cirripedia, body size, egg production, energy, hosts, life history, parasite load, parasites, reproductive success, resource allocation
- The ‘crowding effect’ is a result of competition by parasites within a host for finite resources. Typically, the severity of this effect increases with increasing numbers of parasites within a host and manifests in reduced body size and thus fitness. Evidence for the crowding effect is mixed – while some have found negative effects, others have found a positive effect of increased parasite load on parasite fitness. Parasites are consumers with diverse trophic strategies reflected in their life history traits. These distinctions are useful to predict the effects of crowding. We studied a parasitic castrator, a parasite that usurps host reproductive energy and renders the host sterile. Parasitic castrators typically occur as single infections within hosts. With multiple parasitic castrators, we expect strong competition and evidence of crowding. We directly assess the effect of crowding on reproductive success in a barnacle population infected by a unique parasitic castrator, Hemioniscus balani, an isopod parasite that infects and blocks reproduction of barnacles. We find (1) strong evidence of crowding in double infections, (2) increased frequency of double infections in larger barnacle hosts with more resources and (3) perfect compensation in egg production, supporting strong space limitation. Our results document that the effects of crowding are particularly severe for this parasitic castrator, and may be applicable to other castrators that are also resource or space limited.