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Parental effects on the larval performance of a tapeworm in its copepod first host


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

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Benesh, D. P. (2013). Parental effects on the larval performance of a tapeworm in its copepod first host. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26(8), 1625-1633. doi:10.1111/jeb.12165.

Parents can influence the phenotype of their offspring through various mechanisms, besides the direct effect of heredity. Such parental effects are little explored in parasitic organisms, perhaps because in many parasites, per capita investment into offspring is low. I investigated whether parental identity, beyond direct genetic effects, could explain variation in the performance of the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus in its first intermediate host, a copepod. I first determined that two breeding worms could be separated from one another after ~48 h of in vitro incubation and that the isolated worms continued producing outcrossed eggs, that is, rates self-fertilization did not increase after separation. Thus, from a breeding pair, two sets of genetically comparable eggs can be collected that have unambiguous parental identities. In an infection experiment, I found that the development of larval worms tended to vary between the two parental worms within breeding pairs, but infection success and growth rate in copepods did not. Accounting for this parental effect decreased the estimated heritability for development by nearly half. These results suggest that larval performance is not simply a function of a worm’s genotype; who mothered or fathered an offspring can also affect offspring fitness, contradicting the perhaps na€ıve idea that parasites simply produce large quantities of uniformly low-quality offspring.