Castrating parasites and colonial hosts

Parasitology. 2012 Apr;139(4):547-56. doi: 10.1017/S0031182011002216. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


Trajectories of life-history traits such as growth and reproduction generally level off with age and increasing size. However, colonial animals may exhibit indefinite, exponential growth via modular iteration thus providing a long-lived host source for parasite exploitation. In addition, modular iteration entails a lack of germ line sequestration. Castration of such hosts by parasites may therefore be impermanent or precluded, unlike the general case for unitary animal hosts. Despite these intriguing correlates of coloniality, patterns of colonial host exploitation have not been well studied. We examined these patterns by characterizing the responses of a myxozoan endoparasite, Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae, and its colonial bryozoan host, Fredericella sultana, to 3 different resource levels. We show that (1) the development of infectious stages nearly always castrates colonies regardless of host condition, (2) castration reduces partial mortality and (3) development of transmission stages is resource-mediated. Unlike familiar castrator-host systems, this system appears to be characterized by periodic rather than permanent castration. Periodic castration may be permitted by 2 key life history traits: developmental cycling of the parasite between quiescent (covert infections) and virulent infectious stages (overt infections) and the absence of germ line sequestration which allows host reproduction in between bouts of castration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bryozoa / growth & development
  • Bryozoa / parasitology*
  • Bryozoa / physiology
  • Castration
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Myxozoa / pathogenicity*
  • Myxozoa / physiology*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Virulence