Superparasitism and Population Regulation of the Mosquito-Parasitic Mermithid Nematodes Romanomermis iyengari and Strelkovimermis spiculatus

Manar Sanad, Jennifer S. Sun, Muhammad S. M. Shamseldean, Yi Wang, Randy Gaugler

Abstract


Superparasitism is a common phenomenon in mosquito-parasitic mermithid nematodes. Multiple nematodes are needed in a single host to produce males. Host selection behavior and intraspecific competition among Romanomermis iyengari and Strelkovimermis spiculatus were investigated against their host, Culex pipiens pipiens in laboratory experiments. In a choice assay between previously infected and uninfected host larvae, infectious preparasites of both nematode species could distinguish not only between infected and uninfected hosts, but even between different parasite loads in showing a strong preference for uninfected hosts or hosts with a low parasite load. Host heart rate declined briefly immediately after parasitism. Superparasitism resulted in increased parasite mortality. Scramble competition within mosquito larvae for limited host nutrients, coupled with a skewed sex ratio favoring males, is assumed to lead to parasite population decline and subsequently toward host-parasite population equilibrium. The ability of mermithid preparasites to accurately assess parasite load likely plays an important role in host population dynamics and regulation.

Keywords


heart rate; host selection; population regulation; Romanomermis iyengari; Strelkovimermis spiculatus; superparasitism

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