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      Optimal habitat selection by helminths within the host environment

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      Parasitology

      Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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          SUMMARY

          Helminth parasites of vertebrates usually select very specific regions or habitats in their hosts, and this is often preceded by a tortuous migration through various host organs. However, the proximate mechanisms of migration and habitat selection have remained enigmatic despite considerable effort by parasitologists. In this paper, a new approach to studying helminth behaviour in the host is proposed. The core idea is that behaviour strategies must be considered from the perspective of the parasites and their perceptions of their environment. A guiding principle is that the environmental features to which an animal responds, and the actions which are required for responding to the environment, form a fundamental unit of behaviour. Thus, we can deduce an animal's behavioural strategy from the details of its response to environmental signals and from its sensory capabilities. The evidence presented suggests that helminth behaviours in the host often occur as fixed (or modal) action patterns which are usually seen in response to constant, or predictable environmental features. Thus, a working hypothesis is that the mechanisms of physiological and biochemical homeostasis within the host provide an extremely predictable environment for the parasite. Under these conditions, a parasite needs to perceive only small subsets of the total information available from the environment to respond appropriately. Studies on sensory and nervous systems of these organisms are critical to understanding parasite perception, but there are formidable technical obstacles that prevent easy access to parasite nervous systems. Therefore, a multidisciplinary approach, using ideas from parasitology, ecology, evolutionary biology and neuroethology, is considered requisite for reconstructing the parasites' behaviour strategies. It is suggested that future directions should pursue integration of studies on sensory physiology with the behavioural ecology of these organisms.

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          Most cited references 73

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          Spatial and Temporal Scales in Habitat Selection

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            Ecological Scale and Habitat Use

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              Neural basis of rhythmic behavior in animals.

               F Delcomyn (1980)
              Timing of the repetitive movements that constitute any rhythmic behavior is regulated by intrinsic properties of the central nervous system rather than by sensory feedback from moving parts of the body. Evidence of this permits resolution of the long-standing controversy over the neural basis of rhythmic behavior and aids in the identification of this mechanism as a general principle of neural organization applicable to all animals with central nervous systems.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Parasitology
                Parasitology
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                0031-1820
                1469-8161
                1994
                April 07 2017
                1994
                : 109
                : S1
                : S41-S55
                Article
                10.1017/S0031182000085073
                © 1994

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