The relationship of fish age class to parasitism by Paulisentis missouriensis was determined by sampling at least 29 creek chubs, Semotilus atromaculatus, from Easly Creek, Richardson County, Nebraska, every month from February 1996 to March 1997. In general, mean abundance and prevalence of the acanthocephalans increased with the age or length of chubs. It is unlikely that this distribution is explained by increased consumption of intermediate hosts by older, larger fish or by predatory fish acquiring parasites from paratenic hosts. The intermediate host for P. missouriensis is the cyclopoid copepod Acanthocyclops robustus, and creek chubs do not consume more microscopic crustaceans as they age or grow. Instead, the percentage of fish in the diet of creek chubs increases. Furthermore, P. missouriensis apparently does not use paratenic hosts. In laboratory infections, P. missouriensis survived predation of its original definitive host and transferred to the predator. Postcyclically transmitted P. missouriensis survived at least 14 days in the intestine of creek chubs, where they localized around the first flexure beyond the stomach. All stages of development of both sexes were transferred successfully. Postcyclic transmission is a plausible explanation, in some cases, for the greater worm burden frequently observed in older, larger hosts and for the occurrence in top carnivores of parasites not known to have paratenic hosts. This method of transmission appears to result in distribution of acanthocephalans to groups of animals that otherwise would be inaccessible.
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