The beetle-tapeworm life cycle provides a convenient system to study how host behaviour influences the probability of re-infection because initial and secondary infections can be tracked. The beetle, Tenebrio molitor, is infected with the tapeworm Hymenolepis diminuta when it ingests rat faeces containing tapeworm eggs, which upon hatching undergo five morphologically distinct stages while developing inside the beetle. In a series of preference trials, both individual and groups of previously infected beetles were exposed to baits of infective (faeces with eggs) and uninfective faeces. Beetles did not differ in the amount of time spent or in the number of occurrences at each bait type, suggesting that infected beetles show no preference for infective faeces. This may be a host adaptation to avoid further infection, parasite manipulation to avoid competition for host resources, or both. Further, once infected, beetles are no more or no less likely to become re-infected than uninfected beetles. An analysis of the mean and variance of infection suggests that some individuals are highly susceptible to and some are highly resistant to infection, with males being more variable than females. This could explain the higher load of cysticercoids observed in males.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology