How host size may constrain the evolution of parasite body size and clutch size. The parasitic isopod Ichthyoxenus fushanensis and its host fish, Varicorhinus bacbatulus, as an example


  • Min-Li Tsai,

  • Jan-Jung Li,

  • Chang-Feng Dai

M.-L. Tsai and C.-F. Dai (correspondence), Inst. of Oceanography, National Taiwan Univ., P.O. Box 23-13, Taipei, Taiwan ( – L M.-L. Tsai (present address) and J.-J. Li, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, 2 Houwan Road, Che-Cheng, Pingtung, Taiwan.


The flesh-burrowing parasitic isopod Ichthyoxenus fushanensis was found infecting the body cavity of a freshwater fish, Varicorhinus bacbatulus, in heterosexual pairs. Herein we investigate the question of how the host body size may constrain the parasite size and clutch size by analyzing the interactions among the body size and clutch size of the parasite, and host size. Due to the low transmission rate of I. fushanensis to its host and the positive relationship between clutch size and female size, selection may favor larger females with larger clutch sizes to compensate for massive losses of manca (the free-living juveniles). The path model reveals that clutch size depends not only directly on female size, but also on the sizes of her host and mate. Female size also depends on the sizes of the host and her mate. A negative correlation exists between the body sizes of the paired males and females. This negative correlation may be regarded as a consequence of competition for limited available space or other resources provided by the host. The effects of host size on parasite size, however, act on the total volume of both sexes as a whole, not specifically on either the female or the male. In this case, the available space/resources may not allow both individuals of different sexes to evolve toward a larger size simultaneously. Under the constraint of host size, a strategy of reducing the body size of the paired male may provide a way to increase the body size of the paired female and achieve a larger clutch size.