Numerous studies have demonstrated that parasites with complex life cycles frequently manipulate the phenotype of their hosts to increase their transmission rate. Little is known, however, concerning density-dependent processes within infrapopulations of manipulative parasites—whether parasites cooperate to manipulate the host, whether competition counteracts with these potential cooperative benefits, or both. Here we explored these ideas, focusing on the association between the manipulative trematode Microphallus papillorobustus and its second intermediate host, the gammarid Gammarus insensibilis. From the data collected in the field, we found no evidence that co-occurring M. papillorobustus individuals benefit from the presence of conspecifics; instead, individuals in larger infrapopulations suffered reduced size and fecundity. Thus, the net effect of increasing density suggests that competition rather than cooperation is the dominant force in infrapopulations of M. papillorobustus.

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