No evidence for behavioural adaptations to nematode parasitism by the fly Drosophila putrida.J Evol Biol. 2013 Aug; 26(8):1646-54.JE
Behavioural adaptations of hosts to their parasites form an important component of the evolutionary dynamics of host-parasite interactions. As mushroom-feeding Drosophila can tolerate deadly mycotoxins, but their Howardula nematode parasites cannot, we asked how consuming the potent mycotoxin α-amanitin has affected this host-parasite interaction. We used the fly D. putrida and its parasite H. aoronymphium, which is both highly virulent and at high prevalence in some populations, and investigated whether adult flies utilize food with toxin to prevent infection in the next generation or consume the toxin to reduce the virulence of an already established infection. First, we found that uninfected females did not prefer to eat or lay their eggs on toxic food, indicating that selection has not acted on the flies to alter their behaviour towards α-amanitin to prevent their offspring from becoming infected by Howardula. However, we cannot rule out that flies use an alternate cue that is associated with toxin presence in the wild. Second, we found that infected females did not prefer to eat food with α-amanitin and that consuming α-amanitin did not cure or reduce the virulence of the parasite in adults that were already infected. In sum, our results indicate there are no direct effects of eating α-amanitin on this host-parasite interaction, and we suggest that toxin tolerance is more likely maintained by selection due to competition for resources than as a mechanism to avoid parasite infection or to reduce the virulence of infection.