Abstract:

Experimental infections and field-collected lizards were used to investigate issues of transmission, host specificity, and seasonal occurrence in the nematode Cyrtosomum penneri (Cosmocercoidea: Atractidae). Anolis sagrei (87 males, 42 females) were captured from the Florida Southern College campus, Polk County, Florida, from October 2010 to September 2011, and 8,803 C. penneri were collected from their intestines. During the breeding season all sexually mature (SVL ≥34 mm) A. sagrei were infected, whereas juvenile lizards (SVL <34 mm) were never infected. Experimental infections, using A. sagrei, found that worms were transferred to new hosts venereally, but not during oral exposures. Mating trials confirmed that worms were consistently transferred between hosts during copulation under natural conditions. Experimental exposures found that land snails and crickets do not serve as transport or intermediate hosts, which supports the idea that C. penneri is transferred only during host copulation. Experimental infections to test host specificity in C. penneri successfully infected A. sagrei, Hemidactylus turcicus, and Sceloporus undulatus, but not Anolis carolinensis or Plestiodon inexpectatus. Overall, this is the first study to fully elucidate the life cycle of any atractid nematode, and we suggest a venereal route of transmission for all atractid worms that infect reptilian hosts. Our findings also have implications for the host's reproductive and behavioral biology, e.g., support for covert or satellite males in the A. sagrei mating system.

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