Infection-induced changes in a host’s thermal physiology can represent (1) a generalized host response to infection, (2) a pathological side-effect of infection, or (3), provided the parasite’s development is temperature-dependent, a subtle case of host manipulation. This study investigates parasite-induced changes in the thermal biology of a first intermediate host infected by two castrating trematodes (genera Maritrema and Philophthalmus) using laboratory experiments and Weld surveys. The heat tolerance and temperatures selected by the snail, Zeacumantus subcarinatus, displayed alterations upon infection that differed between the two trematodes. Upon heating, snails infected by Maritrema sustained activity for longer durations than uninfected snails, followed by a more rapid recovery, and selected higher temperatures in a thermal gradient. These snails were also relatively abundant in high shore localities in the summer only, corresponding with seasonal elevated microhabitat temperatures. By contrast, Philophthalmus infected snails fell rapidly into a coma upon heating and did not display altered thermal preferences. The respective heat tolerance of each trematode corresponded with the thermal responses induced in the snail: Maritrema survived exposure to 40°C, while Philophthalmus was less heat tolerant. Although both trematodes infect the same tissues, Philophthalmus leads to a reduction in the host’s thermal tolerance, a response consistent with a pathological side effect. By contrast, Maritrema induces heat tolerance in the snail and withstood exposure to high heat. As the developmental rate and infectivity of Maritrema increase with temperature up to 25°C, one adaptive explanation for our findings is that Maritrema manipulates the snail’s thermal responses to exploit warm microhabitats.
Field of Research
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)