Most trematodes and some cestodes have obligate life history features that include an asexual developmental stage that can produce genetically-identical individuals (clonemates) followed by an adult stage with sexual reproduction. These life history features can influence the evolutionary mechanism of inbreeding in parasites, especially among self-compatible hermaphroditic endoparasites whose mating opportunities are restricted to within hosts. As clonemate mating in hermaphroditic species produces a genetic inbreeding signature identical to that of self-mating, it is important to understand how clonemates are transmitted through their life stages. A handful of prior studies compared clone richness (number of clones) across life cycle stages to infer transmission processes and to characterize clone abundance distributions (CADs) among hosts. Here we illustrate the use of the proportion of clonemate dyads (PC) within hosts to describe the CADs. PC has several advantages as an ecological metric in that it is unbiased by sample size, takes into account relative parasite burdens, and has a direct transmission interpretation, i.e., the probability of cotransmitting clonemates. Moreover, PC is also an evolutionary metric as it can be used to estimate a potential clonemate mating rate. We demonstrate the use of PC in comparing CADs within and across 2 trematode developmental stages in the lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum. Also, we show how genetic estimates of apparent selfing (true selfing plus clonemate mating) at larval and juvenile stages can be compared to PC estimated at the adult stage to assess the contribution of clonemate mating to apparent selfing. The eco-evolutionary links presented are generalizable to assess sibling cotransmission as well. Thus, the framework presented herein will facilitate future field-based studies on the transmission and mating systems of parasitic flatworms.

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