The diphyllobothriidean cestode Schistocephalus solidus typically infects threespine sticklebacks that are too small to allow the parasite to reach a mature size. As a result, the parasite must allow further growth of its host to reach the size at which it becomes competent to infect and reproduce in the definitive host. At times, however, intensity of infection can be high, leading to crowding among parasites and to heavy burdens causing mortality among hosts. Our data show that, during a previously observed epizootic, large percentages of plerocercoids (average 75% per host, 82% among all parasites pooled) did not grow to become massive enough in 1-yr-old threespine sticklebacks to be capable of establishment and maturation in the definitive host. Massive deaths of 1-yr-old sticklebacks due to infection during the epizootic resulted in the great misfortune of a disaster for a large number of parasites, resulting in dramatically reduced transmission of S. solidus.
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Vol. 97 • No. 5