Evidence for strategic egg production in a hermaphroditic cestode.


The cestode Schistocephalus solidus is a simultaneous hermaphrodite that grows in 2 intermediate hosts and reproduces rapidly within a few days in the gut of a bird. Reproduction takes place by self- or cross-fertilization. Here, it was tested whether egg production differs between S. solidus that reproduce alone and those that are allowed to reproduce in pairs. Egg production in an in vitro system was found to depend on the cestodes' social situation. When kept alone, larger cestodes produced larger eggs. This was not so when kept in pairs--the difference between these 2 reproductive modes being highly significant in this respect. Further experiments revealed that, within the first 3 days, these hermaphrodites produced a larger total egg mass when kept alone than when kept in pairs. This was also reflected by the energy contents of the cestodes after this time-span: selfers had used up more energy than paired worms. Furthermore, S. solidus appeared to adjust its investment per egg depending on whether the offspring will be the result of self- or cross-fertilization. Selfers produced larger numbers of eggs, but these eggs were smaller and contained even smaller embryos per given egg size than eggs of potentially outbreeding cestodes. Selfed eggs reached lower hatching rates. Although this is to be expected from inbreeding depression it may also be an effect of the reduced maternal investment per egg. The observed phenotypic plasticity in the reproduction of S. solidus is discussed within 4 evolutionary frameworks: local mate competition adjusted for hermaphrodites, the hermaphrodite's dilemma, bet-hedging, and sib-competition.

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@article{Wedekind1998EvidenceFS, title={Evidence for strategic egg production in a hermaphroditic cestode.}, author={Claus Wedekind and D Strahm and Lukas Sch{\"a}rer}, journal={Parasitology}, year={1998}, volume={117 ( Pt 4)}, pages={373-82} }