Alternative parasite development in transmission strategies: How time flies!
Among parasitic platyhelminths with complex life cycles, it has been well documented that transmission opportunities are the main forces shaping the diversity of life-history traits and parasite developmental strategies. While deviations in the development pathway usually involve shortening of life cycles, their extension may also occur following perception of remaining time by parasites. Polystoma gallieni, the monogenean parasite of Hyla meridionalis, is able to trigger two alternative developmental strategies depending on the physiological stage of the tadpoles upon which larvae attach. The distribution and reproductive outputs of both resulting phenotypes were surveyed to address questions about the dynamics of transmission in natural environments. Because modifications in the completion of life cycles can have drawbacks which may perturb the dynamic equilibrium of the resulting host-parasite systems, experimental infestations were also performed to assess parasite-parasite interactions. Our results suggest that the bladder adult phenotype, which involves transmission between frogs and tadpoles, is supplied secondarily by the branchial phenotype which involves transmission between tadpoles and metamorphs. They also support the occurrence of finely tuned trade-offs between hosts and parasites and highlight positive trends behind the extension of direct life cycles, in which host-derived signals account for the remaining time to achieve parasitic transmission.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology