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Keywords:

  • complex life cycles;
  • Diplostomum pseudospathaceum;
  • microsatellites;
  • parasite clonal diversity

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

How complex life cycles of parasites are maintained is still a fascinating and unresolved topic. Complex life cycles using three host species, free-living stages, asexual and sexual reproduction are widespread in parasitic helminths. For such life cycles, we propose here that maintaining a second intermediate host in the life cycle can be advantageous for the individual parasite to increase the intermixture of different clones and therefore decrease the risk of matings between genetically identical individuals in the definitive host. Using microsatellite markers, we show that clone mixing occurs from the first to the second intermediate host in natural populations of the eye-fluke Diplostomum pseudospathaceum. Most individuals released by the first intermediate host belonged to one clone. In contrast, the second intermediate host was infected with a diverse array of mostly unique parasite genotypes. The proposed advantage of increased parasite clone intermixture may be a novel selection pressure favouring the maintenance of complex life cycles.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Complex life cycles of parasites have fascinated biologists for a long time now (Gibson, 1987; Dobson, 1989; Rohde, 1994; Combes, 1997). Parasitic helminths comprise an astounding diversity of life cycles, using up to four hosts and a diverse array of transmission modes (Cribb et al., 2003; Parker et al., 2003). A widespread and large group of parasites with a complex life cycle are digenean trematodes. The wide majority of trematodes use three hosts (Cribb et al., 2003). However, in several independent trematode families, individual species reduced their life cycle to two or even only one host (Combes, 1997; Poulin & Cribb, 2002). As several independent reduction events occurred, strong selective forces seem to drive the evolution of reduced life cycles. A proposed advantage of omitting hosts is that the life cycle can be completed with fewer transmission steps, thus avoiding risks during the host switch (Poulin & Cribb, 2002). Omitting hosts can also be advantageous if one host is temporarily very rare or if predation rate by the specific down-stream host during the trophic transmission is too low (Poulin & Cribb, 2002).

Despite these advantages to omitting hosts, the majority of digenean trematodes have a life cycle with three hosts, suggesting strong counteracting forces that maintain hosts in the cycle. Such forces have been proposed to be higher growth and fecundity (Parker et al., 2003), an increased probability of finding a mating partner (Brown et al., 2001), and higher transmission rates (Morand et al., 1995; Choisy et al., 2003; Parker et al., 2003). These models were developed for parasites with sexual reproduction and trophic transmission (most nematodes and cestodes). Many parasite species, however, in addition have asexual multiplication in the first intermediate host and free-living stages actively penetrating the second intermediate host (most digenean trematodes, comprising several thousand species). This alternation between asexual and sexual reproduction may have important consequences for shaping the life cycle which we explore in this paper.

Here we propose a different advantage for the individual parasite of maintaining hosts in life cycles with asexual reproduction. Maintaining the second intermediate host increases clone intermixture and can therefore decrease the risk of matings between genetically identical individuals in the definitive host, as follows. Rare infection events combined with asexual reproduction often lead to a first intermediate host being infected by parasites all belonging to the same clone (Sire et al., 1999) or to one of only three clones (Minchella et al., 1995). The free-swimming larvae released from the first intermediate host are dispersed rapidly in the water. The second intermediate host may then collect parasites belonging to different clones. The dilution effect can be compared with sperm movement in externally fertilizing animals, where sperm concentration decreases exponentially with increasing distance from the source (Denny, 1988). Collecting parasites of different clones can work in two nonexclusive ways. First, the second intermediate host is very mobile so that clones can be collected from many different spots and from many different first intermediate hosts. This is a probable scenario for around half the trematode species using a vertebrate as second intermediate host (Cribb et al., 2003). Secondly, collection of different clones can occur through time, if changes in water currents or novel infections of first intermediate hosts lead to a continuous change in the clone pool. This mechanism may play a role for parasites using vertebrates as well as for less mobile hosts like molluscs or arthropods (Cribb et al., 2003). This dilution and collection mechanism leads to clone mixing, which here means that individuals of one clone released by one first intermediate host do not end up in the same individual of the second intermediate host species.

If a second intermediate host is then eaten by the definitive host, it ingests parasites each belonging to a different clone. In contrast, if the second intermediate host is omitted and one first intermediate host is eaten directly by the definitive host, many parasites would belong to the same clone. Thus, the risk of matings between identical genotypes is increased with associated fitness costs of inbreeding (O'Brien et al., 1985; Charlesworth & Charlesworth, 1987; Jiménez et al., 1994; Christen et al., 2002). The described reduction of the life cycle, where the parasite develops inside the first intermediate host into a life-stage able to infect directly the definitive host and where it awaits ingestion by the definitive host is not just a theoretical sketch. Although only rarely found, this special type of reduction is independently realized in four of the well over 100 trematode families (Poulin & Cribb, 2002).

In this study, we tested whether clone mixing occurs for the eye-fluke parasite Diplostomum pseudospathaceum Niewiadomska from the first intermediate host (snail) to the second (fish). By directly genotyping single parasite individuals with microsatellite markers, this study is to our knowledge the first to directly test for clone mixing of parasites in a complex life cycle. We propose that this mechanism may be a novel advantage for maintaining hosts in complex life cycles.

Life cycle of parasite

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Eye-fluke parasites of the genus Diplostomum (Trematoda) are found worldwide in freshwater systems. Diplostomum pseudospathaceum uses the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis L. as a first intermediate host, where asexual reproduction takes place. Free-swimming larvae (cercariae) are released from the snail. Numbers of larvae released per day can reach impressive levels under laboratory conditions, ranging between 7000 and 37 000 cercariae per day and snail. Such an abundant release of cercariae continued for more than 2 months (Karvonen et al., 2004). Free-swimming stages penetrate into the second intermediate host (fish), here the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus L. Once inside the fish, the parasite migrates to the eye lens of the fish, where growth takes place (fish stage: metacercariae). The definitive host, a gull, eats the fish and sexual reproduction occurs in the bird's gut. The eggs produced are then passed out into the water; larvae hatch and penetrate the first intermediate host. The parasite harms both intermediate hosts. Fitness reduction occurs by castrating the snail and increasing predation risk of the fish (Crowden & Broom, 1980). The lifespans of snails and fish are in the same range. Lymnaea stagnalis was reported to live up to 2.5 years (Väyrynen et al., 2000) and G. aculeatus a maximum of 1–4 years depending on the study site (Bell & Foster, 1994). At our study site, sticklebacks are probably ecological annuals and seldom survive a second winter (unpublished observations).

In this study, we compared the genotypic (clonal) diversity change from the first to the second intermediate hosts. Only this host transition is relevant for our hypothesis of clone mixing, because individuals living within a first intermediate host can end up in different second intermediate hosts. This mixing is no longer possible from the second intermediate host to the definitive host, as due to the trophic transmission parasites living in one stickleback invariably end up in the same gull.

Sampling and clone typing

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Snails and sticklebacks were caught in October 2003 in the lake Kleiner Plöner See (northern Germany). Snails were placed singly in a glass tube to check for released parasites. About 41% of the 50 collected snails were infected and they released hundreds of cercariae within 12 h. For each of 10 infected snails, 47 released parasites were chosen randomly and singly genotyped. To test whether the clone composition of parasite populations within snails changed over time, all snails were kept singly in 2-L aquaria at 18 °C with 16 h of light per day for 2 months. Water was exchanged every week and snails were fed once per week with green lettuce. Of the 10 randomly selected fish, all had eye-flukes. Six to 71 parasites were found per fish, of which all were singly genotyped.

We used five highly polymorphic microsatellites to assess the genotype of each parasite larva (Reusch et al., 2004). Clones were identified based on their multilocus microsatellite genotype. A new genotype was scored if at least one of the 10 microsatellite alleles analysed was different from the previously analysed genotypes. Most genotypes differed at several alleles and only five genotypes differed only in one allele from a second genotype. As the markers were highly polymorph, the probability of finding two individuals with the same genotype only because of segregation events was extremely low (mean probability for 10 randomly picked genotypes: P < 10−10). Overall, 3% of the samples yielded no PCR products and were excluded from further analysis.

Effect of sample size within snail parasites

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

As we only analysed a small fraction of all cercariae each snail released, we tested how sample size affected the number of clones found using a re-sampling method. For every snail, we re-sampled the genotypes from one to 47 (maximum) of the cercariae without replacement. After 1000 runs, the mean number of genotypes detected was plotted against the number of cercariae sampled. A logarithmic curve was then fitted for each snail and the number of clones was extrapolated if 1000 cercariae had been analysed, the estimated number one snail released within 12 h.

Parasite clone diversity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

We measured the diversity of the parasite population for every snail host and every fish host separately with the Shannon index, calculated with: H = −Σpi* ln (pi), where pi is the proportion of individuals in the ith clone for one host (Magurran, 1988). As the number of individuals analysed differed between populations, we used rarefaction to standardize the diversity between populations (Gotelli & Entsminger, 2001).

Calculation of Fis values

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Inbreeding increases homozygosity (Charlesworth & Charlesworth, 1987). To test for an excess of homozygotes, Fis values were calculated using the genetix program (Belkhir et al., 2002). Confidence intervals were calculated by bootstrapping the data set 1000 times. Null alleles are a problem for such analyses, as they increase the homozygote frequency. As we amplified every microsatellite together with a second one, an estimation of the frequency of null alleles is possible. Every time one microsatellite of a pair amplified but the other did not, a homozygote null allele was scored. The frequency of homozygote null alleles was calculated for every microsatellite and ranged from 0 to 0.053. For calculating Fis, only the microsatellite without any detected null alleles was used.

Number of parasite clones within one host

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

The mean number of different clones a snail released was with 4.4 clearly lower than the average of 21.9 clones found within single fish (t-test: t18 = −2.92; P < 0.001). The number of clones ranged from one to nine clones per snail and from six to 67 clones per fish. The extrapolated number of different clones per snail if 1000 cercariae would have been sampled was 7.2 (SE = 1.29). This is significantly higher than the number actually found (paired t-test: t9 = 4.58; P < 0.01). However, the difference between the number of clones per snail and fish remained significant even when the extrapolated number of parasite clones released by one snail was used (t-test: t18 = −2.40; P < 0.05).

The majority of parasite clones were unique to one host. Only in one case, two individuals of the same clone were found in two different fish. In total, we found 44 different parasite clones for snails and 218 for fish.

Clone mixing

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

We clearly show that clone mixing occurs from the first to the second intermediate host. One clone clearly dominated the cercariae population released by a single snail (Fig. 1). On average over all 10 snails, the most abundant clone accounted for 65% (SE = 6.94) of the parasite population one snail released, with subsequent clones being less frequent. The second most abundant clone already had an average frequency of only 20% (SE = 3.46). The frequency decreased on average by a factor of 2.5 for each step down of the abundance hierarchy. In contrast, almost every parasite found within one fish belonged to a different clone (Fig. 1). Only in three cases were two individuals and once three individuals of the same clone found within one fish (three of the four cases were within the same fish). Accordingly, the average diversity calculated with the Shannon index for the parasite population of snails was with 0.67 (SE = 0.12) clearly much lower than for the parasite population of fish with 1.79 (SE = 0.01) (Welch-anova for mean values with unequal variances: t =−9.11; d.f. = 9; P < 0.0001). The effect size (difference between diversity mean values/pooled SD) was 1.75, a large effect size by the standard suggested by Cohen (1988).

image

Figure 1. Proportion of different parasite clones in populations from single snails (cercariae) and fish (metacercariae). Black segments represent the proportion of the most abundant clone of one host, segments with horizontal lines the proportion of the second and segments with vertical lines of the third most abundant clone. All remaining clones are represented by a grey area. Each white segment represents a clone where only one individual was found. Note that the same segment pattern in two hosts does not correspond to identical clones, but rather to both clones having the same relative abundance.

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No parasite populations from snail or from fish had an excess of homozygotes. Fis values ranged from −0.43 to 0.33. No value was significantly greater than zero and in eight populations even a deficit of homozygotes was detected (P < 0.05).

The clone composition of parasite populations within snails changed only little over time. The cercariae of the five surviving snails were sampled again 2 month after the first analysis as above. In three snails, the most abundant clone found in the first round was still the most abundant and for two snails, it was still the second most abundant clone.

Clone mixing

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Our data provided clear evidence for the postulated clone mixing from the first to the second intermediate host. While the snail released only few different clones and most of the snail stages belonged to one clone, the second intermediate host was infected with a diverse array of mostly unique parasite genotypes.

To be able to test for clone mixing, the genotype of single individuals must be assessed. Studies testing for the diversity change from the first to the second host have so far only pooled many parasites into one PCR product for each host. Therefore, it was not possible to find out how many individuals of the same clone were present within one host (for studies on Plasmodium see Hill & Babiker, 1995; Paul et al., 1995; Arez et al., 2003 and on TrypanosomaOtieno et al., 1990; Hide et al., 2000; Diosque et al., 2003). Only for Schistosoma parasites, the diversity change between two hosts was examined based on data of single individuals. In these studies, however, the parasite population found in the first intermediate host was artificially grown by infecting laboratory-reared mice in order to obtain enough parasite tissue for genetic analysis (Minchella et al., 1995; Barral et al., 1996; Sire et al., 1999; Curtis et al., 2002; Théron et al., 2004). As these passages are likely to alter the genetic composition of the parasite population (Wakelin et al., 2002), a direct comparison of the parasite diversity between the two hosts is not possible. To overcome these shortcomings, we genotyped single parasites directly after isolation from snails and fish. This study is, to the best of our knowledge, the first directly showing clone mixing of parasites in a complex life cycle.

We concentrated our study on one location, where we found a marked difference between parasite clone populations in snails and fish. Other sites may differ in many aspects and may also show a different degree of clone mixing. If for example fish have a strongly reduced mobility and snails are dispersed singly over wide distances, we would expect to find within fish clone frequencies that are more similar to those of snails. However, as soon as parasites of only two snails can intermix, we expect a higher diversity in fish than in snails as found in this study.

The parasite population of a snail was clearly dominated by a single clone. Why did we not find in fish a frequency pattern with some clones being more frequent than others? The reason is that the number of different parasite clones existing in one habitat is extremely high. In our study, we found ≥250 different clones, but there are probably many more as our diversity estimate is far from reaching saturation. By intermixing this high number of different clones in the environment, the probability to be infected by two individuals of the same clone decreases, if only a low number of parasites are sampled. In our study a fish accumulated only 22 parasites on average. It is important to note that each white circle segment in Fig. 1 represents just one individual parasite. Any apparently even distribution of parasite clones within fish implies that most clones are only represented once while we cannot infer that parasites within fish are more evenly distributed than within snails.

The maintenance of complex life cycles

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

Here we propose that maintaining the second intermediate host in the cycle can be advantageous for the individual parasite to increase clone mixing and therefore to decrease the risk of inbreeding in the definitive host. The reasoning is simple. If the definitive host directly eats one first intermediate host, it will be infected by parasites mainly belonging to one clone, in our study up to 100%. In contrast, if it eats one second intermediate host, it will be infected by parasites each belonging to a different clone. Clearly, the risk of matings between individuals of one clone and thus the risk of inbreeding would be higher in the reduced life cycle. A main effect of inbreeding is to increase the frequency of homozygotes (Charlesworth & Charlesworth, 1987). We did not detect an excess of homozygotes, indicating that inbreeding is not severe for the studied parasite. This is consistent with the proposed advantages for the individual parasite of maintaining a second intermediate host in the life cycle to increase clone intermixture, which will ultimately reduce the risk of inbreeding.

The definitive host will probably eat many infected hosts, not just one. Therefore, in the reduced life cycle matings could also occur between parasites coming from different first intermediate hosts and so belonging to different clones. The increased risk in the reduced life cycle, however, prevails, because there would still be many individuals of the same clone in the same definitive host. In contrast, in the three-host cycle, the probability of encountering an individual of the same clone remains close to zero. If the definitive host were infected with all 224 fish stages analysed in this study, 98% of the clones would be represented by one individual only. In addition, there is a time effect. Parasites with the reduced life cycle would have to wait until an additional infected intermediate host was eaten to reduce the risk of mating with an individual of the same clone at least to some extent. However, waiting probably has costs, as adult parasites are not very long-lived and egg production declines around 3 months after infection (Chappell et al., 1994). In contrast, parasites that use the second intermediate host can start mating right away without any risk of intra-clone matings.

Maintaining or losing intermediate hosts can be viewed as a balance between costs and benefits of complex life cycles. A reduction of the life cycle by losing the second intermediate host has arisen independently in several species of four trematode families (Poulin & Cribb, 2002). This is an excellent possibility to test for forces maintaining complex life cycles by comparing several pairs of closely related species, one with the reduced life cycle and the other with the complete life cycle. If the above-mentioned mechanism of clone mixing works, we predict that species with a reduced life cycle have a reduced clone mixing and are more inbred compared with closely related species with complete life cycles. Some species of trematodes also reduced the cycle to a two-host cycle, but retained the free-swimming larval stage penetrating the definitive host (Poulin & Cribb, 2002). In these species, clone mixing is still possible. Therefore, we expect that in this case inbreeding would not be as severe as in the species with two-host cycles without free-living stages. For those species with a two-host cycle keeping the free-swimming larvae, the proposed advantage for the individual parasite of clone mixing can still work. In this case, clone mixing can be increased by maintaining the definitive host in the cycle. If the former definitive host is lost from the two-host cycle, asexually produced parasites may reproduce sexually within the only host before any dispersal takes place, as is realized in several species of different trematode families (Poulin & Cribb, 2002). There, the risk of inbreeding is evident.

Clearly, the proposed impact of clone mixing depends on how the life cycle reduction influences the transmission form. In this paper, we concentrated on the situation where the reduction leads to the loss of the free-living stage and where clone mixing could be reduced. However, if the reduction leads to the loss of the trophic transmission form and the free-living form is kept in the cycle, clone mixing is still possible. In this case, the proposed advantages of complex life cycles with trophic transmission (Morand et al., 1995; Brown et al., 2001; Choisy et al., 2003; Parker et al., 2003) may be more appropriate to explain the maintenance of the second intermediate host in the cycle.

Interactions with existing models

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

The proposed advantage of clone mixing for the individual parasite in a multi-host cycle is additional and nonexclusive to existing models. Positive interactions can arise with already identified advantages of complex life cycles with trophic transmission. For example, Parker et al. (2003) proposed increased growth and fecundity as an advantage of a complex life cycle. The parasite could combine those advantages and mix up the clones and at the same time increase growth and fecundity by keeping the second intermediate host in the cycle. An additional advantage of complex life cycles was proposed to be an increased transmission rate (Morand et al., 1995; Choisy et al., 2003; Parker et al., 2003). Maintaining the second intermediate host could increase transmission rate, if the definitive host feeds on more second intermediate hosts than on first intermediate host. Again, the advantages can be combined, allowing clone mixing and higher transmission rate by keeping the second intermediate host.

The mechanism of clone mixing is described here for parasites with asexual reproduction and free-living life stages. The general mechanism of genotype mixing may also be increased in a complex life cycle with exclusive sexual reproduction and trophic transmission compared with a simple life cycle. For example, in a two-host cycle with trophic transmission, the intermediate host may harbour closely related parasites, if parasite siblings infect the same intermediate host given that they hatch in close spatial proximity. The definitive host may eat several first intermediate hosts and matings could occur between parasites from different sibships. If a parasite leaves out the definitive host and reproduces sexually within the former intermediate host, the probability of mating with a sibling would be increased. The advantage of inbreeding avoidance through genotype mixing may therefore also apply in general to complex life cycles.

The origin of complex life cycles

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References

It has long been assumed that the common ancestor of the digenean trematode was an endoparasite of molluscs that later on included the vertebrate host in the life cycle (Gibson, 1987; Rohde, 1994). A new phylogeny, however, suggested a more parsimonious order with the parasite first being an endoparasite of vertebrates and later on including the mollusc host. Both transmission steps are thought to occur with free-living stages (Littlewood et al., 1999; Cribb et al., 2003). A likely explanation for the origin of complex life cycles is the following. If many free-living stages of the parasite were eaten by a predator, surviving the passage would clearly be a selective advantage and the predator may subsequently be integrated in the life cycle of the parasite (Smith-Trail, 1980). In this case, clone mixing cannot explain the origin of complex life cycles, as asexual reproduction appeared after the complex cycle was already realised. However, genotype mixing in general could also have played a role in the origin of complex life cycles. With the inclusion of the second host, the cycle involves two steps with free-living stages and two steps could lead to an increased genotype mixing compared with one step.

In summary, we show that a mobile second intermediate host collects and mixes different genotypes released by intermediate hosts infected mainly by one clone. We propose a possible implication of this clone mixing for inbreeding avoidance as an advantage for the individual parasite to maintain the second intermediate host in the life cycle.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Life cycle of parasite
  6. Sampling and clone typing
  7. Effect of sample size within snail parasites
  8. Parasite clone diversity
  9. Calculation of Fis values
  10. Results
  11. Number of parasite clones within one host
  12. Clone mixing
  13. Discussion
  14. Clone mixing
  15. The maintenance of complex life cycles
  16. Interactions with existing models
  17. The origin of complex life cycles
  18. Acknowledgments
  19. References
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