Understanding The Relationship Between Host Size, Multiple Infections, And Parasite Reproduction
Parasites are an important player in natural communities, by regulating population size, reducing individual health and reproduction, changing host behavior, and altering energy flows through a community. Thus, understanding their impact on natural communities is an important and challenging area of research. The aim of this project is to understand how these understudied and hidden players affect populations. We focus on Hemioniscus balani, an isopod that lives in the rocky intertidal zone. Hemioniscus balani infects a barnacle, Cthtamalus fissus, by attaching to the barnacle ovaries, and effectively castrating it. Previous data collected by mentor Caitlin Fond suggests that some barnacles are more likely to be infected than others. Namely, barnacles about 3.25 mm long are the most likely to be infected- both larger and smaller barnacles are less infected. Parasites are often very selective in which hosts they infect, and this selection can be an interaction of multiple processes. The goal of this project is to understand the relationship between host size, multiple infections, and parasite reproduction.