Main content area

Variation in the hatching behaviour of Nematodirus battus: Polymorphic bet hedging

van Dijk, J., Morgan, E.R.
International journal for parasitology 2010 v.40 no.6 pp. 675-681
Nematodirus battus, animal parasitic nematodes, ova, hatching, geographical variation, environmental factors, air temperature, climatic factors, England, Scotland
Previous work on the transmission dynamics of Nematodirus battus, an important nematode parasite of farmed ruminants in temperate regions, suggests that it operates a bet-hedging strategy. Hatching of cold-sensitised eggs is concentrated in spring, while alternative hatching of non-cold-sensitised eggs in autumn mitigates the risk of poor conditions for hatching in spring or host absence during peak larval availability. Isolates from Scotland showed much less propensity to hatch without chilling than the previously characterised isolate from southern England. Nematodirus battus eggs from a hill farm in Scotland showed intermediate proportions of non-chilled hatching, perhaps related to unpredictability of climate at higher altitudes. Geographic polymorphism in larval behaviour appears to be present in the form of differing chilling requirements for egg hatching. Since bet-hedging through trait diversification is a plausible and demonstrated strategy for coping with environmental unpredictability, it is a likely target for adaptation to climate change. Predictions of disease epidemiology in a changing climate should incorporate parasite adaptation, but further theoretical and empirical characterisations of likely evolutionary responses are needed before this is possible for the most economically important systems.