We examined the effect of isopod size and age on the success of an acanthocephalan infection and on the effects of that infection on the growth and survival of the isopods. Groups of isopods (Asellus aquaticus) belonging to 4 size classes (juveniles, maturing adults, young adults, and older adults) were exposed to infective acanthors of Acanthocephalus lucii. At the end of the experiment, survival of the isopods, lengths of male and female isopods, and numbers of different developmental stages of A. lucii larvae in infected isopods were assessed. Acanthocephalus lucii prevalence was significantly lower in juvenile isopods than in adults. Intensity of infection increased with the size of isopods at exposure, and cystacanth intensity correlated positively with isopod size at the end of the experiment. Exposed juveniles and maturing adults survived significantly better than unexposed individuals, but the opposite was true of the 2 largest size classes. At the end of experiment, exposed isopods, and, especially, cystacanth-infected isopods, were significantly larger than unexposed isopods in every size class. We suggest that isopod size not only affects the success of A. lucii infection but also affects the ability of A. lucii to affect the survival (and perhaps the growth) of the isopod hosts.
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