Two steps to suicide in crickets harbouring hairworms

Marta I. Sanchez*, Fleur Ponton, Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa, David P. Hughes, Dorothee Misse, Frederic Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The hairworm (Nematomorpha) Paragordius tricuspidatus has the ability to alter the behaviour of its terrestrial insect host (the cricket Nemobius sylvestris), making it jump into the water to reach its reproductive habitat. Because water is a limited and critical resource in the ecosystem, we predicted that hairworms should adaptively manipulate host behaviour to maximize parasite reproductive success. Our results supported the hypothesis that the host manipulation strategy of hairworms consists of at least two distinct steps, first the induction of erratic behaviour and then suicidal behaviour per se. Hairworms secured mating by starting to manipulate their host before being fully mature. Once induced, the cricket's suicidal behaviour was maintained until the host found water but the fecundity of worms decreased over time. As expected, the fecundity of worms was better in crickets with suicidal rather than erratic behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1624
Number of pages4
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


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