An Empirical Model of the Optimal Timing of Reproduction for Female Amphipods Infected by Trematodes

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Life-history theory predicts that hosts should reproduce when first infected by parasites if hosts are capable and if parasites have a lower cost on current than on future reproduction of hosts. We constructed an empirical model to explore fitness of females of the intertidal amphipod Corophium volutator that reproduced soon versus long after infection by the trematode Gynaecotyla adunca. For uninfected females, the optimal time to reproduce was at their maximum body length. However, for females infected by low or high intensities of trematode metacercariae, reproductive potential (realized fecundity) was highest for females that mated immediately after becoming infected. Even after removing a high cost of delaying reproduction for infected amphipods (high likelihood of depredation by sandpipers, which are final hosts of G. adunca), realized fecundity remained highest if reproduction occurred immediately following infection by trematodes. Results from our model support the view that early reproduction of female amphipods following infection by G. adunca is an adaptive life-history response to parasitism.