Parasite Diversity and Burden in Relation to Diet Than to Sex in a Hermaphroditic Fish (Haliochoeres semicinctus)
Relationships between organisms can be predicted by analyzing what type of parasites an organism carries. Certain types of parasites are transferred from prey to predator; therefore, an animal’s parasites are a record of what it has eaten and suggest what shall eat it. The rock wrasse Haliochoeres semicinctus undergoes a process in which it changes from female to male, which results in physiological and behavioral differences. Such differences could potentially affect how H. semicinctus interacts with other organisms in its ecosystem. I compared the parasites of male and female rock wrasses in order to determine if they were consuming different prey or otherwise behaving differently. I also compared their gut contents, which added data on the feeding behavior of the sexes. These comparisons revealed a trend towards greater parasite burden in female rock wrasses, which could indicate that they are eating more prey items in order to have energy to produce eggs. By eating more prey, they would be exposing themselves to more opportunities for parasitic infection, resulting in this increased burden. The data also showed a positive correlation between the diet diversity and total number and diversity of parasites. This could indicate that as fish are eating more types of prey, they are exposing themselves to both greater numbers and a greater variety of parasites.