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The road not taken: host infection status influences parasite host-choice


Writer(s): Dennis Minchella

Two roads diverged in a green pond
And some parasites take the road less parasitized

Parasites can alter the behavior of hosts to improve transmission success, but do parasites themselves make choices that improve infection success? We investigated whether free-living parasite larvae select potential hosts based on the host’s infection status. Our results show that parasites can detect infections in their hosts and avoid dominant competitors or, in some circumstances, invade hosts infected with weaker competitors. These behaviors have implications for parasite community structure and the evolution of host selection.

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