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Open Access Research

Establishment and interspecific associations in two species of Ichthyocotylurus (Trematoda) parasites in perch (Perca fluviatilis)

Anna Faltýnková13*, Anssi Karvonen2 and E Tellervo Valtonen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35 (YA), FI-40014 Jyväskylä, Finland

2 Department of Biological and Environmental Science, Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland

3 Institute of Parasitology, Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic

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Parasites & Vectors 2011, 4:85  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-85

Published: 20 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Co-infections of multiple parasite species in hosts may lead to interspecific associations and subsequently shape the structure of a parasite community. However, few studies have focused on these associations in highly abundant parasite species or, in particular, investigated how the associations develop with time in hosts exposed to co-infecting parasite species for the first time. We investigated metacercarial establishment and interspecific associations in the trematodes Ichthyocotylurus variegatus and I. pileatus co-infecting three age cohorts of young perch (Perca fluviatilis).

Results

We found that the timing of transmission of the two Ichthyocotylurus species was very similar, but they showed differences in metacercarial development essentially so that the metacercariae of I. pileatus became encapsulated faster. Correlations between the abundances of the species were significantly positive after the first summer of host life and also within the main site of infection, the swim bladder. High or low abundances of both parasite species were also more frequent in the same host individuals than expected by chance, independently of host age or size. However, the highest abundances of the species were nevertheless observed in different host individuals and this pattern was consistent in all age cohorts.

Conclusions

The results suggest similar temporal patterns of transmission, non-random establishment, and facilitative rather than competitive associations between the parasite species independently of the age of the infracommunities. However, we suggest that spatial differences in exposure are most likely responsible for the segregation of the parasite species observed in the few most heavily infected hosts. Regardless of the underlying mechanism, the result suggests that between-species associations should be interpreted with caution along with detailed examination of the parasite distribution among host individuals.