Variation in the reproductive potential of Schistocephalus infected male sticklebacks is associated with 11-ketotestosterone titre

V. Macnab, A. P. Scott, I. Katsiadaki, I. Barber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)


Parasites can impact host reproduction by interfering with host endocrine systems, but the adaptive nature of such effects is disputed. Schistocephalus solidus plerocercoids are parasites of three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus that are often associated with impaired host reproduction. Here, we relate reproductive behavior and physiology to levels of the androgen 11-ketotestosterone (11KT) in naturally infected and non-infected male sticklebacks from two UK populations. In one population infected males harbored heavy infections and showed uniformly reduced 11KT titres and kidney spiggin (nesting glue protein) content compared to non-infected fish. However in a second population infection levels were more variable and males with smaller infections recorded 11KT and spiggin titres that overlapped those of non-infected fish; among infected males from this population 11KT and kidney spiggin also both correlated negatively with infection severity. Male reproductive behavior correlated closely with 11KT titre in both populations, and infected males with high 11KT levels exhibited normal reproductive behavior. Our results suggest that Schistocephalus infection per se does not block reproductive development in male sticklebacks, and that some male fish may have the ability to breed whilst infected. Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that Schistocephalus adaptively castrates male hosts via endocrine disruption; rather they support the hypothesis that reproductive disruption is a side effect of the energetic costs of infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Endocrine disruption
  • Gasterosteidae
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Hormones
  • Ligula intestinalis
  • Parasites
  • Reproduction
  • Reproduction/physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal/physiology
  • Smegmamorpha/blood
  • Testosterone/analogs & derivatives
  • Male
  • Kidney/metabolism
  • Fish Diseases/blood
  • Animals
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Autopsy
  • Cestode Infections/blood
  • Individuality
  • Titrimetry
  • Observer Variation


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