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Is vision deterioration responsible for changes in the host's behavior caused by eye flukes?

Trematodes localizing in the lenses of fish change the behavior of their hosts. These behavioral changes are widely suggested to be parasitic manipulations of host behavior aimed at increasing the possibility of eye flukes completing their life cycle. It is often assumed that fish change their behavior due to the vision deterioration caused by trematode larvae. We checked this assumption by testing Salvelinus malma infected with eye flukes (Diplostomum pseudospathaceum) under different lighting conditions. We suggested that if the parasite alters the host's behavior through vision impairment, then in the dark (when fish do not rely on vision to navigate), the difference in the behavior of infected and uninfected fish would disappear. Eye flukes, indeed, changed fish behavior, making their hosts less vigilant. We believe this is the first evidence of possible parasitic manipulation in this study system. However, contrary to expectations, the difference in the behavior of infected and control fish was independent of the lighting conditions. Our results suggest that mechanisms of behavioral change other than vision impairment should be taken into account in this fish-eye fluke study system.

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