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In laboratory experiments, the researchers demonstrated that in schools of stickleback in which the number of infected fish exceeds that of healthy fish, this healthy minority imitates the changed behaviour of the infected members of their group.
"The reason for this 'wrong' decision on the part of the non-infected sticklebacks presumably has something to with shoaling behaviour," says Jörn Scharsack. "The urge to remain in the group is stronger than exercising caution against any attack by a bird independently." The other way round, however, it is different. The infected fish display risk-friendly behaviour in any case and do not take their lead from the cautious behaviour of the healthy fish when these are in the majority.
Researchers - Wild - Ability - Parasite - Influence
The researchers suspect that, in the wild, the ability of the parasite to have an indirect influence on the behaviour of healthy sticklebacks could also have an effect on stickleback and bird populations. More birds could be lured, for example, because more fish means more attractive prey. The predators' urge to eat fish could thus increase, and ultimately more tapeworm could get into the birds' intestines and reproduce there.
The researchers involved in the study were not only evolutionary biologists from the University of Münster, but also researchers from Berlin: from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and Humboldt University.
Details - Method
Details of the method:
The researchers bred three-spined stickleback in the laboratory and...
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