In a previous study we found that female guppies shoaled more than males and that there was greater transmission of the ectoparasite Gyrodactylus turnbulli between females. Here, to test for a possible sex bias in parasite transmission, we conducted a similar experiment on single sex shoals of male and female guppies, observing host behaviour before and after the introduction of an infected shoal mate. The initial parasite burden was considerably lower in the present experiment (30 worms versus >100 worms previously) and we used a different stock of ornamental guppies (Green Cobra variety versus a Tuxedo hybrid previously). Contrary to our previous finding, males aggregated significantly more than females. Males performed ‘sigmoid’ displays towards each other, a courtship behaviour that is more generally directed towards females. Due to the high rate of male–male interactions, parasite transmission was 10 times higher between males than between females. Furthermore, shoaling intensity was highest for the most parasitised fish indicating that these infected fish were not avoided by non-parasitised conspecifics. These studies show that certain social behaviours including shoaling and courtship displays, appear to facilitate the transmission of gyrodactylid parasites.
- Shoaling behaviour
- Direct transmission