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What are the evolutionary constraints on larval growth in a trophically transmitted parasite?


Benesh,  Daniel P.
Department Evolutionary Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Benesh, D. P. (2010). What are the evolutionary constraints on larval growth in a trophically transmitted parasite? Oecologia, 162(3), 599-608. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1507-6.

For organisms with a complex life cycle, a large larval size is generally beneficial, but it may come at the expense of prolonged development. Individuals that grow fast may avoid this tradeoff and switch habitats at both a larger size and younger age. A fast growth rate itself can be costly, however, as it requires greater resource intake. For parasites, fast larval growth is assumed to increase the likelihood of host death before transmission to the next host occurs. Using the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus in its copepod first intermediate host, I investigated potential constraints in the parasite’s larval life history. Fast-growing parasites developed infectivity earlier, indicating there is no functional tradeoff between size and developmental time. There was significant growth variation among full-sib worm families, but fast-growing sibships were not characterized by lower host survival or more predation-risky host behavior. Parental investment also had little effect on larval growth rates. The commonly assumed constraints on larval growth and development were not observed in this system, so it remains unclear what prevents worms from exploiting their intermediate hosts more aggressively. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1507-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.