Critical resources that influence habitat selection decisions by gastrointestinal helminth parasites

Michael V.K. Sukhdeo, Anne D. Bansemir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Habitat selection may be the basis of some of the most exciting questions in behavioural ecology today, but parasites are being excluded from this debate. Parasites are not aberrant; they form a large proportion of the diversity of life on earth, and one estimate suggests that parasitism is more common than all other feeding strategies combined. We still do not understand the adaptive value of habitat selection behaviours in these organisms, even though the literature is full of examples of parasites migrating and navigating through hosts to their specific habitats. Parasites must make the same decisions that every animal has to make regarding food acquisition, shelter and reproduction. However, we cannot even make reasonable guesses on the habitat selection strategics anti critical resources that influence their decision-making. The purpose of this review is to provide examples of experiments and methods of incorporating critical resources into the ecological analyses of habitat selection by gastrointestinal parasites. Information on parasite resources is simply not available for most parasites, and these ideas might stimulate and guide future research. In addition, parasites are ideal models to test theoretical assumptions of habitat selection. Experimental manipulations of parasite populations are simple, and habitats of endoparasites can be precisely altered by surgical methods. Few tests of habitat selection theory have been attempted in free-living environments because of the difficulty of assessing the correlations between environmental variations and organismal success in real-world situations, but this is not a problem with parasites because their hah tats are replicated exactly in each host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-498
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


  • Habitat selection
  • behaviour
  • distributions
  • ideal free distribution (IFD)
  • intestine
  • niche
  • parasite
  • resource
  • site


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