Social situation, sperm competition and sex allocation in a simultaneous hermaphrodite parasite, the cestode Schistocephalus solidus

Authors

  • L. Schärer,

    1. Abteilung Verhaltensökologie, Zoologisches Institut, Universität Bern, Hinterkappelen, Switzerland,
    2. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Evolutive Parasitaire, Paris, France,
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  • C. Wedekind

    1. Abteilung Verhaltensökologie, Zoologisches Institut, Universität Bern, Hinterkappelen, Switzerland,
    2. Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
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Lukas Schärer, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Evolutive Parasitaire, FRE 2365, 7, quai Saint Bernard, Case 237, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France. Tel.: +33 1 44 27 32 94; fax: +33 1 44 27 35 16; e-mail: lukas.scharer@snv.jussieu.fr

Abstract

Evolutionary theory predicts an influence of mating group size on sex allocation in simultaneous hermaphrodites. We experimentally manipulated the social situation during reproduction in a simultaneous hermaphrodite parasite, the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus, by placing worms as singles, pairs or triplets into an in vitro system that replaces the final host. We then determined the reproductive allocation patterns after 24 h (i.e. before the start of egg release) and after 72 h (i.e. around the peak of egg release rate) using stereology. After 24 h, sex allocation strongly depended on worm volume (which is determined in the second intermediate host), but was not significantly affected by the social situation experienced during reproduction. After 72 h, worms in groups had less vesicular sperm (i.e. sperm to be used in future inseminations) than singles. They also stored significantly more received sperm in their seminal receptacles than singles, suggesting that more sperm had been transferred in groups. Moreover, worms in triplets stored significantly more received sperm than worms in pairs, suggesting that they either mated more often and/or transferred more sperm per mating. This suggests a behavioural response to the increased risk of sperm competition in triplets. We further discuss the relative importance of sex allocation decisions at different life-history stages.

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