In acanthocephalans, dispersal typically occurs when eggs that have been released in the intestines of definitive hosts are expelled with the feces. We examined whether the acanthocephalan Acanthocephalus dirus adopts a strategy of dispersal in which eggs are carried into the environment by gravid females. Using a combination of field surveys and lab-based experiments, we showed that the A. dirus female retained eggs as they passed out of the intestines and that these eggs could develop in intermediate hosts (sediment-dwelling isopods). Lab-based behavioral experiments revealed that the bodies of gravid females were attractive to foraging isopods. We propose that a strategy of egg dispersal could occur in A. dirus in which eggs are carried into the environment by females. This strategy could increase transmission success by dispersing eggs closer to the sediment, rather than in the water column, and by directing the feeding behavior of target hosts.

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