Polypocephalus sp. Infects the Nervous System and Increases Activity of Commercially Harvested White Shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus)
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Larval tapeworms (Polypocephalus sp.) reside within the central nervous system of decapod crustaceans. Living within the nervous system would seem to create an excellent opportunity for the parasites to manipulate the behavior of their hosts, so we tested the hypothesis that behavior of white shrimp ( Litopenaeus setiferus ) would be correlated with the level of parasitic infection. We videorecorded the behavior of L. setiferus for 8 hr, then examined the nervous system and digestive glands for parasite infection. Larval Polypocephalus sp. were found in the nerve cord, often in large numbers, but only very rarely in the digestive gland, which was typically infected by the larval stage of the nematode, Hysterothylacium sp. There were significantly more Polypocephalus larvae in the abdominal and thoracic ganglia than the subesophageal ganglia and brain. Walking, but not swimming, was significantly and positively related to the number of Polypocephalus sp. lodged in nervous tissue, as well as shrimp carapace length. Polypocephalus sp. is 1 of only a few parasites residing inside the host nervous system and it may, therefore, be suitable for investigating mechanisms of parasite manipulation of invertebrate host behavior.
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