Do microsporidian parasites affect courtship in two-spotted gobies?
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Courtship and body condition of male two-spotted gobies (Gobiusculus flavescens) harbouring naturally acquired microsporidian infections were compared with those of microsporidian-free males under standardized conditions in the lab. Although parasite infection had no apparent effect on individual condition, it significantly affected male courtship intensity. This effect, however, was affected by the intensity of the female courtship. Our study is one of the first to demonstrate a sub-lethal behavioural effect of a microsporidian parasite that could negatively affect the reproductive success of infected individuals. Our results also suggest that secondary sexual traits like courtship may be more sensitive to moderately detrimental effects of parasite infection than classical condition indices.
KeywordsMale Courtship Courtship Display Hepatosomatic Index Stimulus Female Secondary Sexual Trait
We thank Katja Norén for help during field work, Nigel G. Yoccoz and Ivar Herfindal for discussion on statistical issues, and Angela Russell for help in identifying the parasite. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. This study was carried out according to the legislation on animal rights of Sweden and following the research application to the Swedish ethical committee (ref # 51/99). The study was financially supported by the MARE program of the Research Council of Norway, the EU Transnational Access to Research Infrastructures programme, the Swedish Natural Sciences Research Council, the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf’s anniversary fund, the Norwegian Academy of Science and the UK Natural Environment Research Council.
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