Today I visited Münster to give an invited departmental seminar at the Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity. It was great to see the nice stickleback labs of Jörn Scharsack and Joachim Kurz and the way in which they are able to experimentally parasitise the fish with Schistocephalus.
Really enjoyed meeting many other members of the department and the very enthusiastic students in the group. I am excited about the possibilities for future collaborations with Jörn to unravel the mechanistic underpinnings of parasite infection and its link to personality variation. Thanks again to Jörn and Nicolle for inviting me!
Recently I started a couple experiments related to parasite infection of Sticklebacks with Schistocephalus, a tapeworm with a fascinating life cycle that requires three separate host species. Our experiments focus on how the parasite affect the fish’s movements, its social interactions and positioning, collective behaviour, and survival in the context of predation.
Today, when moving fish around for experiments, I noticed one particularly bulged individual that, instead of a the smooth elongated body had the body shape of a brick! A clear sign of Schistocephalus infection. We put it down and measured its body weight, both before and after opening up its stomach cavity. What we found was not one, not two, not three, but four individual flatworms with a total weight of 55% of that of the fish! Incredibly how the fish could actually survive with such an immense parasite load.
Three-spined stickleback before and after removing four Schistocephalus worms