Abstract

The cestode Hymenolepis diminuta (Cyclophyllidea) uses a variety of insects as its intermediate host, where ingestion of eggs results in development in the hemocoel of a cysticercoid that is infective to a rat definitive host. Species in 2 genera, Tenebrio and Tribolium (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) have been used extensively as laboratory intermediate hosts. This review examines experimental studies on ecological aspects of the relationship between H. diminuta and tenebrionid beetles, including the acquisition and establishment of the parasite, host effects on the parasite, and parasite effects on the host. A meta-analysis of infection results from the literature revealed strong relationships across host species and strains between (1) prevalence and intensity of infection, (2) efficiency of cysticercoid production and exposure conditions, and (3) variance in abundance or intensity of infection relative to their respective means. The underlying mechanisms producing these patterns remain elusive. Comparative studies are infrequent, and the use of divergent methodologies hampers comparisons among studies. In spite of these problems, there is much to recommend this as a terrestrial host–parasite model system. It represents those relationships in which mostly minor, but occasionally major, responses to parasitic infection occur, and in which host genetics and environmental conditions can serve as modifying factors. Moreover, this is a tractable experimental system, and is backed by an extensive literature on host biology.

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