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3D virtual histology at the host/parasite interface: visualisation of the master manipulator, Dicrocoelium dendriticum, in the brain of its ant hostSome parasites are able to manipulate the behaviour of their hosts to their own advantage. One of the most well-established textbook examples of host manipulation is that of the trematode Dicrocoelium dendriticum on ants, its second intermediate host. Infected ants harbour encysted metacercariae in the gaster and a non-encysted metacercaria in the suboesophageal ganglion (SOG); however, the mechanisms that D. dendriticum uses to manipulate the ant behaviour remain unknown, partly because of a lack of a proper and direct visualisation of the physical interface between the parasite and the ant brain tissue. Here we provide new insights into the potential mechanisms that this iconic manipulator uses to alter its host’s behaviour by characterising the interface between D. dendriticum and the ant tissues with the use of non-invasive micro-CT scanning. For the first time, we show that there is a physical contact between the parasite and the ant brain tissue at the anteriormost part of the SOG, including in a case of multiple brain infection where only the parasite lodged in the most anterior part of the SOG was in contact with the ant brain tissue. We demonstrate the potential of micro-CT to further understand other parasite/host systems in parasitological research.
The first global deep-sea stable isotope assessment reveals the unique trophic ecology of Vampire Squid Vampyroteuthis infernalis (Cephalopoda)Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun, 1903, is a widely distributed deepwater cephalopod with unique morphology and phylogenetic position. We assessed its habitat and trophic ecology on a global scale via stable isotope analyses of a unique collection of beaks from 104 specimens from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Cephalopods typically are active predators occupying a high trophic level (TL) and exhibit an ontogenetic increase in δ15N and TL. Our results, presenting the first global comparison for a deep-sea invertebrate, demonstrate that V. infernalis has an ontogenetic decrease in δ15N and TL, coupled with niche broadening. Juveniles are mobile zooplanktivores, while larger Vampyroteuthis are slow-swimming opportunistic consumers and ingest particulate organic matter. Vampyroteuthis infernalis occupies the same TL (3.0–4.3) over its global range and has a unique niche in deep-sea ecosystems. These traits have enabled the success and abundance of this relict species inhabiting the largest ecological realm on the planet.