Effects of two acanthocephalan parasites on the fecundity and pairing status of female Gammarus pulex (Crustacea: Amphipoda)
Acanthocephalan parasites are known to alter the reproductive biology and physiology of their hosts in various ways. In this study we investigated the influence of two acanthocephalan parasites, Pomphorhynchus laevis and Polymorphus minutus, on the fecundity and pairing success of female Gammarus pulex. The results show that P. laevis and P. minutus affect female intermediate host reproduction in different ways. Females infected with P. minutus were totally castrated, whereas those infected with P. laevis only showed reduced fecundity. The oocytes of P. laevis-infected females showed a similar structure to those of uninfected females, although infected females had a higher proportion of oocytes that had failed to reach complete maturity. In comparison, the oocytes of P. minutus-infected females demonstrate a clearly altered structure that suggests a major disruption to the process of vitellogenesis. In the field, males paired more frequently with uninfected females than with infected ones, and is a stronger effect for P. minutus-infected females than P. laevis-infected females. We suggest that the difference in pairing success of P. minutus-infected and P. laevis-infected females is a direct result of the different effects that the two parasites have on female fecundity.