Research Article

An anomaly against a current paradigm – extremely low rates of individual fecundity variability of the Gordian worm (Nematomorpha: Gordiida)

B. HANELTa1 c1

a1 Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, MSC03 2020, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA


Extreme variation in reproductive success (VRS) has been reported as a common feature of populations. Few individuals producing most of the offspring for the next generation has potential consequences for the population dynamics, genetics, and evolution of a group of organisms. High VRS has been described as a normal feature of helminth populations, although studies have focused largely on parasites of vertebrate hosts. Paragordius varius, a parasite of crickets, was used as a model system to study VRS. In this life cycle, worms absorb and store resources for reproduction from their hosts before being released into water. Egg output varied significantly with worm length, indicating that female length is an excellent predictor of fecundity. Analyses using the Lorenz curve and Gini coefficient suggest that there were no marked fecundity differences. This result was supported by data collected from a natural gordiid population, Gordius difficilis, suggesting that within gordiid populations the offspring of the next generation are contributed nearly equally by females. In addition, male body length appeared to be limited by intensity, whereas females showed no length limitation by crowding. These results contrast previous studies of parasites.

(Received October 10 2008)

(Revised October 25 2008)

(Accepted October 27 2008)

(Online publication December 22 2008)


c1 Corresponding author. Tel: +01 505 2772754. Fax: +01 505 2770304. E-mail: