Variation among body sizes of adult parasitic worms determines the relative genetic contribution of individuals to the next generation as it affects the effective parasite population size. Here, we investigate inequalities in body size and how they are affected by intensity of infection in Mermis nigrescens (Mermithidae: Nematoda) parasitizing the European earwig Forficula auricularia in New Zealand. Among a population of pre-adult worms prior to their emergence from the host, we observed only modest inequalities in body length; however, among worms sharing the same individual host, inequalities in body sizes decreased with increasing intensity of infection. Thus, the more worms occurred in a host, the more the second-longest, third-longest and even fourth-longest worms approached the longest worm in body length. This pattern, also known from another mermithid species, suggests that worms sharing the same host may have infected it roughly simultaneously, when the host encountered a clump of eggs in the environment. Thus, the life history and mode of infection of the parasite may explain the modest inequalities in the sizes achieved by pre-adult worms, which are lower than those reported for endoparasitic helminths of vertebrates.
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We thank Steven Evans for assistance with earwig collection. FM was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Fondation Fyssen (France).
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Maure, F., Poulin, R. Inequalities in body size among mermithid nematodes parasitizing earwigs. Parasitol Res 115, 4471–4475 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-016-5233-9
- Body size
- Gini coefficient
- Mermis nigrescens
- Forficula auricularia