Original Paper

Parasitology Research

, 105:555

First online:

Effects of host outcrossing on the interaction between an aquatic snail and its locally adapted parasite

  • Gregory J. SandlandAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse Email author 
  • , Amy R. WethingtonAffiliated withDepartment of Science, Chowan College
  • , Alice V. FosterAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Purdue University
  • , Dennis J. MinchellaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Purdue University

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In this study, we investigated the interaction between host outcrossing and infection in the Biomphalaria glabrataSchistosoma mansoni system. Snails collected from three susceptible isofemale lines were mated with either siblings or snails recently derived from a field site in Brazil. Resulting inbred and outcrossed progeny were then exposed to S. mansoni larvae and monitored for a 10-week period. Interestingly, all snails exhibited equal susceptibility whether they were the result of inbreeding or outcrossing. However, further examination of both host and parasite life-history traits uncovered significant differences between the groups. In uninfected snails, outcrossed progeny tended to exhibit greater fitness relative to inbred progeny. When snails were parasitized, these differences were magnified in certain life-history traits, particularly host reproduction and survival. As an extension of the work, we also investigated virulence within this host–parasite system. Estimates of parasite reproduction and host size were combined to generate a novel “exploitation index,” and these indices were regressed with host survivorship. As predicted, there was a significant and negative correlation between the variables, but this was restricted to a single snail line. Results from this study demonstrate that infection outcomes (as measured by prevalence) may not differ between inbred and outcrossed hosts. However, outcrossing may enhance snail fitness through life-history trait expression.