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Distance covered by uninfected and infected hosts.
Cumulative distance (mm) covered by uninfected and P. minutus infected G. roeseli after contact with non-host predator D. villosus (redrawn from Table 1, p<0.001, Medoc 2008).

Discussion questions

  1. How can a parasite both increase the possibility of being eaten by a definitive host and decrease the possibility of being consumed by a non-host predator?
  2. Why is behavior modification so important for many parasites?


  • Cystacanth - developed acanthocephalan larva, which is able to infect its definitive host (Moore 1983).
  • Co-evolution - phenomenon when a change in one species causes a change in another species, which triggers a counter-adaptation in the first species again, so that the two species evolve together.
  • Definitive host - an organism in which parasite reproduces and resides until death.
  • Extended phenotype - term coined by Richard Dawkins to describe the phenomenon of genes not only determining physical phenotypes but also various behaviors of an organism.
  • Free-living stage - a stage in parasite’s life when following a signal from the environment or the host’s body the parasite escapes the host’s body and lives outside (Sukhdeo 1995).
  • Intermediate host - an organism that contains the parasite for a limited amount of time, when the parasite life cycle requires more than one host.
  • Invasive host - a potential host for a parasite that is not native to the area, often harder to invade than local hosts
  • Neuromodulators - can alter the neural circuits and allow the organism to be flexible in its responses to the environment (Adamo 2002).
  • Oddity selection - when conspicuous appearance of an organism causes it to becomes more vulnerable to predation.
  • Serotonin - a neurotrasmitter and hormone, also known as 5-HT, that is known to constrict blood vessels and have an effect on mood (Medicinenet.com)
  • Parasitism - a relationship between two species in which one benefits and another suffers losses to fitness.


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About the author

picture of the author.
Dina Yangirova

I was born in Russia, but have lived in Houston, Texas for nine years. I am a junior biochemistry major and I have taken the Animal Behavior class because I dearly love all animals, even the ugly ones. In my spare time, I like to dance, take pictures, draw, watch movies, and read. The hardest part of writing this chapter was putting together all the disparate, disjoined pieces of information and constructing a coherent picture of how the acanthocephalans operate. In the process, I have realized yet again that even the smallest and slimiest creatures can be incredibly complex and exciting.

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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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