The consequences of self-fertilization and outcrossing of the cestode Schistocephalus solidus in its second intermediate host

a1 Max-Planck-Institute of Limnology, Department of Evolutionary Ecology, August-Thienemann-Strasse 2, 24306 Plön, Germany

Medline query on article authors

christen m
milinski m


Many hermaphroditic parasites reproduce by both cross-fertilization and self-fertilization. To understand the maintenance of such mixed mating systems it is necessary to compare the fitness consequences of the two reproductive modes. This has, however, almost never been done in the context of host–parasite coevolution. Here we show the consequences of outcrossing and selfing in an advanced life-stage of the cestode Schistocephalus solidus, i.e. in its second intermediate host, the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Each juvenile stickleback was simultaneously exposed to 2 experimentally infected copepods, one harbouring outcrossed the other selfed parasites. At 60 days p.i. parasites were removed from the fish's body cavity and, with microsatellite markers, assigned to either outcrossed or selfed origin. Prevalence was not significantly higher in outcrossed parasites. However, those fish that were infected contained significantly more outcrossed than selfed parasites. Thus the probability of a selfed parasite to progress in the life-cycle is reduced in the second intermediate host. Furthermore, we found that even the multiply infected fish increased in weight during the experiment. Nevertheless, total worm weight in multiply infected fish was significantly lower than in singly infected ones, which thus might be a parasite life-history strategy.

(Received October 8 2002)
(Revised November 12 2002)
(Accepted November 12 2002)

Key Words: outcrossing; selfing; inbreeding depression; host–parasite coevolution; cestode.

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