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1 June 2011 Processes Influencing the Duration and Decline of Epizootics in Schistocephalus solidus
David C. Heins, John A. Baker, Dillon M. Green
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The interplay of intermediate host fish and plerocercoids of diphyllobothriidean cestodes results in epizootics that are deceptively simple, but conceal complex biotic and abiotic interactions shaping each event independently. Although general descriptions of epizootics and some details of biotic interactions between enemies are known, much remains to be discovered about the abiotic and biotic forces and their interactions driving epizootics. This study shows that the duration of an epizootic of Schistocephalus solidus was sustained by high prevalence, mean intensity, and PI (parasite index—parasite∶host biomass ratio) levels among young-of-the-year and 1-yr-old threespine sticklebacks. Many infections and most parasite growth in young-of-the-year fish apparently occurred under the ice during the winter. Few new infections appear to have occurred among 1-yr-old fish, which may live 2 yr and sometimes 3 yr. The decline of the epizootic occurred as the recruitment of 1 to 2-yr-old hosts decreased significantly, followed by reduced infections of young-of-the-year fish. Thus, a major factor influencing parasite population dynamics was reduced transmission (probability of infection) as a result of overwinter host mortality among 1-yr-old fish. Mega-epizootics, named and described herein, appear to represent a “perfect storm” phenomenon dependent on a particular and rare combination of circumstances. Less extreme and more gradual epizootics may be more common and play out in myriad ways, because of complex abiotic and biotic factors influencing both parasite and host populations. The interplay of parasite and host resulting in reciprocal effects upon one another occurs during both the emergence and decline phases of an epizootic.

David C. Heins, John A. Baker, and Dillon M. Green "Processes Influencing the Duration and Decline of Epizootics in Schistocephalus solidus," Journal of Parasitology 97(3), 371-376, (1 June 2011).
Received: 15 November 2010; Accepted: 1 January 2010; Published: 1 June 2011
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