Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity is a process in which multiple phenotypes arise from 1 genotype because of environmental selection pressures. Gyrinicola batrachiensis has a heterogeneous reproductive strategy such that females reproduce either via parthogenesis with thick-shelled eggs in a single uterus or sexual reproduction with thick- and thin-shelled eggs in separate uterine horns. No evidence exists that strains of G. batrachiensis are able to switch between parthenogenetic and sexual reproduction. Thin-shelled eggs are autoinfective, and thick-shelled eggs act as transmission agents once shed into the aquatic environment. Our primary goal was to determine whether dioecious, didelphic pinworms that infect Rana sphenocephala, a slow-developing tadpole, and Osteopilus septentrionalis, a quick-developing tadpole, display reproductive plasticity with concern to thick- and thin-egg development. We performed experimental cross-infections in aquatic mesocosms to determine if dioecious, didelphic worms vary (based on tadpole host) in their ability to produce thin-shelled eggs: O. septentrionalis (hylid) egg masses were exposed to infected R. sphenocephala (ranid) tadpoles, ranid egg masses to infected hylid tadpoles, and a fully crossed infection that exposed ranid and hylid egg masses to infected tadpoles of both anuran families. Results indicated that worms reproduced via didelphic haplodiploidy in experimental ranid and hylid hosts, but that worms from hylids produced only thick-shelled eggs, which supports an intermediate reproductive strategy in O. septentrionalis. There was a significant difference in the mean intensities of ranid and hylid hosts, supporting our assertion that females infecting ranids are capable of producing autoinfective, thin-shelled eggs, and females infecting hylids do not produce such thin-shelled, autoinfective eggs because of the host microenvironment.

You do not currently have access to this content.