Rhizocephalan barnacles are a unique group of endoparasitic crustaceans. In their extreme adaptation to endoparasitism, rhizocephalan adults have lost almost all features of their free-living relatives but acquired an outstanding degree of control over the body of their hosts (mostly decapods). The subtle influence exercised by rhizocephalans on the physiology, morphology and behaviour of their hosts is a vivid example of the most intimate host-parasite interactions but their mechanisms are very poorly known. In this study we examined the morphology and the adaptive ultrastructure of the organs invading the nervous system of the host in two rhizocephalan species from the families Peltogastridae, (Peltogaster paguri) and Peltogasterellidae (Peltogasterella gracilis). We found two essentially different types of structures involved in interactions of these two rhizocephalans with the nervous system of their hosts: modified rhizocephalan rootlets lying inside the ganglia and the neural fibres of the host enlacing the trophic rootlets of the parasites. We suggest that both these structures may be highly specialized tools allowing the parasite to interact with the host on the humoral level via neuromediators, hormones, attractants and trophic factors.
Miroliubov, A., Borisenko, I., Nesterenko, M., Lianguzova, A., Ilyutkin, S., Lapshin, N., & Dobrovolskij, A. (2020). Specialized structures on the border between rhizocephalan parasites and their host’s nervous system reveal potential sites for host-parasite interactions. Scientific Reports, 10, . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58175-4