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Parasites in space and time: a novel method to assess and illustrate host-searching behaviour of trematode cercariae

Selbach, Christian, Poulin, Robert
Parasitology 2018 v.145 no.11 pp. 1469-1474
Apatemon, Crustacea, Maritrema, automation, cercariae, community structure, disease transmission, fish, host seeking, host-parasite relationships, hosts, intraspecific variation, life history, parasites, space and time, swimming, New Zealand
The transmission from one host to another constitutes a challenging obstacle for parasites and is a key determinant of their fitness. Due to their complex life histories involving several different hosts, the free-living dispersal stages (cercariae) of digenean trematodes show a huge diversity in morphology and behaviour. On a finer scale, we still have an extremely limited understanding of the inter- and intraspecific variation in transmission strategies of many trematode species. Here, we present a novel method to study the movement patterns of cercariae of four New Zealand trematode species (Coitocaecum parvum, Maritrema poulini, Apatemon sp. and Aporocotylid sp. I.) via automated video tracking. This approach allows to quantify parameters otherwise not measurable and clearly illustrates the individual strategies of parasites to search for their respective target hosts. Cercariae that seek out an evasive fish target hosts showed higher swimming speeds (acceleration and velocity) and travelled further distances, compared with species searching for high-density crustacean hosts. Automated video tracking provides a powerful tool for such detailed analyses of parasites’ host-searching strategies and can enhance our understanding of complex host–parasite interactions, ranging from parasite community structure to the transmission of potential disease agents.