Intermediate host exploitation by parasites is presumably constrained by the need to maintain host viability until transmission occurs. The relationship between parasitism and host survival, though, likely varies as the energetic requirements of parasites change during ontogeny. An experimental infection of an acanthocephalan (Acanthocephalus lucii) in its isopod intermediate host (Asellus aquaticus) was conducted to investigate host survival and growth throughout the course of parasite development. Individual isopods were infected by exposure to fish feces containing parasite eggs. Isopods exposed to A. lucii had reduced survival, but only early in the infection. Mean infection intensity was high relative to natural levels, but host mortality was not intensity dependent. Similarly, a group of naturally infected isopods harboring multiple cystacanths did not have lower survival than singly infected isopods. Isopods that were not exposed to the parasite exhibited sexual differences in survival and molting, but these patterns were reversed or absent in exposed isopods, possibly as a consequence of castration. Further, exposed isopods seemed to have accelerated molting relative to unexposed controls. Infection had no apparent effect on isopod growth. The effects of A. lucii on isopod survival and growth undermine common assumptions concerning parasite-induced host mortality and the resource constraints experienced by developing parasites.
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