FOOD MAKES YOU A TARGET: DISENTANGLING GENETIC, PHYSIOLOGICAL, AND BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS DETERMINING SUSCEPTIBILITY TO INFECTION

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Abstract

Genetics, physiology, and behavior are all expected to influence the susceptibility of hosts to parasites. Furthermore, interactions between genetic and other factors are suggested to contribute to the maintenance of genetic polymorphism in resistance when the relative susceptibility of host genotypes is context dependent. We used a maternal sibship design and long- and short-term food deprivation treatments to test the role of family-level genetic variation, body condition, physiological state, and foraging behavior on the susceptibility of Lymnaea stagnalis snails to infection by a trematode parasite that uses chemical cues to locate its hosts. In experimental exposures, we found that snails in the long-term food deprivation treatment contracted fewer parasites than snails that were continuously well-fed, possibly because well-fed snails grew larger and attracted more transmission stages. When we kept the long-term feeding rates the same, but manipulated the physiological state and foraging behavior of the snails with short-term food deprivation treatment, we found that snails that were fed before the exposure contracted more parasites than snails that were fed during the exposure. This suggests that direct physiological effects of food processing, but not foraging behavior, predisposed snails to infection. Feeding treatments also affected the family-level variation in snail susceptibility, suggesting that the relative susceptibility of host genotypes was context dependent.

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