Grouping behaviours (e.g. schooling, shoaling and swarming) are commonly explicated through adaptive hypotheses such as protection against predation, access to mates or improved foraging. However, the hypothesis that aggregation can result from manipulation by parasites to increase their transmission has never been demonstrated. We investigated this hypothesis using natural populations of two crustacean hosts (Artemia franciscana and Artemia parthenogenetica) infected with one cestode and two microsporidian parasites. We found that swarming propensity increased in cestode-infected hosts and that red colour intensity was higher in swarming compared with non-swarming infected hosts. These effects likely result in increased cestode transmission to its final avian host. Furthermore, we found that microsporidian-infected hosts had both increased swarming propensity and surfacing behaviour. Finally, we demonstrated using experimental infections that these concurrent manipulations result in increased spore transmission to new hosts. Hence, this study suggests that parasites can play a prominent role in host grouping behaviours.
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