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Progenesis and facultative life cycle abbreviation in trematode parasites: Are there more constraints than costs?

Villa, Manon, Lagrue, Clément
International journal for parasitology 2019 v.49 no.5 pp. 347-354
Trematoda, definitive hosts, early development, fecundity, fish, inbreeding, intermediate hosts, life history, longevity, parasites, selfing
Complex life cycles provide advantages to parasites (longer life span, higher fecundity, etc.), but also represent a series of unlikely events for which many adaptations have evolved (asexual multiplication, host finding mechanisms, etc.). Some parasites use a radical strategy where the definitive host is dropped; life cycle abbreviation is most often achieved through progenesis (i.e. early maturation) and reproduction in the second intermediate host. In many progenetic species, both the typical and abbreviated life cycles are maintained. However, conditions that trigger the adoption of one or the other strategy, and the pros and cons of each parasite life history strategy, are often complex and poorly understood. We used experimental infections with the trematode Coitocaecum parvum in its fish definitive host to test for potential costs of progenesis in terms of lifespan and fecundity. We show that individuals that adopt progenesis in the intermediate host are still able to establish in the definitive host and achieve higher survival and fecundity than conspecifics adopting the typical three-host life cycle. Our results and that of previous studies show that there seems to be few short-term costs associated with progenesis in C. parvum. Potential costs of self-fertilization and inbreeding are often suggested to select for the maintenance of both life-history strategies in species capable of facultative progenesis. We suggest that, at least for our focal species, there are more constraints than costs limiting its adoption. Progenesis and the abbreviated cycle may become the typical life-history strategy while reproduction in the vertebrate definitive host is now a secondary alternative when progenesis is impossible (e.g. limited host resources, etc.). Whether this pattern can be generalized to other progenetic trematodes is unknown and would require further studies.