Parasites have been shown to impair the behaviour of their hosts, compromis
ing the host's ability to exploit and compete for resources. We conducted t
wo experiments to determine whether infestation with an ectoparasitic mite
(Hannemania eltoni) was associated with changes in aggressive and foraging
behaviour in the Ozark zigzag salamander, Plethodon angusticlavius. In a fi
rst experiment, male salamanders with high parasite loads were less aggress
ive overall than males with low parasite loads during territorial disputes.
In addition, males with high parasite loads were more aggressive toward op
ponents with high parasite loads (symmetric contests) than toward opponents
with low parasite loads (asymmetric contests). In contrast, males with low
parasite loads did not adjust their level of aggression according to the p
arasite load of the opponent. In a second experiment, foraging behaviour of
females was tested in response to 'familiar' (Drosophila) prey and 'novel'
(termite) prey. Latency to first capture was significantly longer for para
sitized than non-parasitized females when tested with 'familiar' prey, but
not for 'novel' prey. Our results suggest that parasite-mediated effects ma
y have profound influences on individual fitness in nature.