Effects of host injury on susceptibility of marine reef fishes to ectoparasitic gnathiid isopods
Jenkins, William G.
Sikkel, Paul C.
Demopoulos, Amanda W.J.
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The importance of the role that parasites play in ecological communities is becoming increasingly apparent. However much about their impact on hosts and thus populations and communities remains poorly understood. A common observation in wild populations is high variation in levels of parasite infestation among hosts. While high variation could be due to chance encounter, there is increasing evidence to suggest that such patterns are due to a combination of environmental, host, and parasite factors. In order to examine the role of host condition on parasite infection, rates of Gnathia marleyi infestation were compared between experimentally injured and uninjured fish hosts. Experimental injuries were similar to the minor wounds commonly observed in nature. The presence of the injury significantly increased the probability of infestation by gnathiids. However, the level of infestation (i.e., total number of gnathiid parasites) for individual hosts, appeared to be unaffected by the treatment. The results from this study indicate that injuries obtained by fish in nature may carry the additional cost of increased parasite burden along with the costs typically associated with physical injury. These results suggest that host condition may be an important factor in determining the likelihood of infestation by a common coral reef fish ectoparasite, G. marleyi