Asexual Reproduction in Pygospio Elegans Claparede (Annelida, Polychaeta) in Relation to Parasitism by Lepocreadium Setiferoides (Miller and Northup)(Platyhelminthes, Trematoda)

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Life-history theory predicts that parasitized hosts should alter their investment in reproduction in ways that maximize host reproductive success. I examined the timing of asexual reproduction (fragmentation and regeneration) in the polychaete annelid Pygospio elegans experimentally exposed to cercariae of the trematode Lepocreadium setiferoides. Consistent with adaptive host response, polychaetes that became infected by metacercariae of trematodes fragmented sooner than unexposed controls. Parasites were not directly associated with fission in that exposed polychaetes that did not become infected also fragmented earlier than controls. For specimens of P. elegans that were not exposed to trematodes, new fragments that contained original heads were larger than those that contained original tails, whereas original head and tail fragments did not differ in size for infected polychaetes. In infected specimens, metacercariae were equally represented in original head and tail fragments and were more likely to be found in whichever fragment was larger. Despite early reproduction, parasitism was still costly because populations of P. elegans exposed to parasites were smaller than controls when measured 8 weeks later and because exposure to cercariae reduced survivorship of newly divided polychaetes. Taken together, my results suggest that early fragmentation is a host response to minimize costs associated with parasitism.