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Rose bitterling (Rhodeus ocellatus) embryos parasitize freshwater mussels by competing for nutrients and oxygen

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Spence, R. and Smith, C. 2011. Rose bitterling (Rhodeus ocellatus) embryos parasitize freshwater mussels by competing for nutrients and oxygen. —Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 00: 1–6.

Understanding how parasites inflict fitness costs on their hosts is a key question in host–parasite biology. Rose bitterling (Rhodeus ocellatus) are small cyprinid fish that place their eggs in the gills of living freshwater mussels. The embryos complete their development inside the mussel gill and emerge as free‐swimming larvae after approximately 4 weeks. Bitterling show a range of specialized adaptations for using mussels as a spawning substrate, and the presence of bitterling embryos has been shown to retard the growth of mussels. We compared the development and survival of embryos incubated in either mussels or Petri dishes and exposed to either nutrient‐rich or nutrient‐poor pond water. Embryonic development rate was significantly faster in Petri dishes, probably as a result of oxygen limitation in mussel gills. Embryo survival rate was significantly higher in nutrient‐rich than filtered water, suggesting that the embryos obtained a nutritional benefit prior to emergence from the host. The results imply that bitterling embryos compete for oxygen and nutrients with their host mussel, as well as each other, and in this way, impose a growth cost on mussels.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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