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Keywords:

  • Bet hedging;
  • host condition;
  • host–parasite interaction;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • Trematoda

Abstract

Characterizing genetic variation in parasite transmission traits and its contribution to parasite vigor is essential for understanding the evolution of parasite life-history traits. We measured genetic variation in output, activity, survival, and infection success of clonal transmission stages (cercaria larvae) of a complex life cycle parasite (Diplostomum pseudospathaceum). We further tested if variation in host nutritional stage had an effect on these traits by keeping hosts on limited or ad libitum diet. The traits we measured were highly variable among parasite genotypes indicating significant genetic variation in these life-history traits. Traits were also phenotypically variable, for example, there was significant variation in the measured traits over time within each genotype. However, host nutritional stage had no effect on the parasite traits suggesting that a short-term reduction in host resources was not limiting the cercarial output or performance. Overall, these results suggest significant interclonal and phenotypic variation in parasite transmission traits that are not affected by host nutritional status.