Open Access

Parasite load effects on sex ratio, size, survival and mating fitness of Heleidomermis magnapapula in Culicoides sonorensis


Heleidomermis magnapapula parasitizes the blood-feeding midge Culicoides sonorensis. Most (84%) single mermithid infective second stage juveniles (J2) developed into adult females, while parasitism by multiple J2 yielded 97% male adults. Nematodes emerged from the midge larval host as adults and mated immediately; females were ovoviviparous. Host larvae were exposed to nematode J2 and examined intact microscopically to score initial parasite load. Midge hosts were reared individually. Premature midge death, nematode survival within the host, and emerging adult nematode sex ratio and size as a function of load and host size were all tracked. Higher nematode loads produced smaller adult nematode males. The higher loads also increased and accelerated premature host death. Emergence of > 7–9 adult nematode males was rare, but up to 19 tiny males emerged from a single host. Larger midges supported higher parasite loads and a larger total volume of emerged nematode biomass. Virgin adult nematode males then were paired with females of variable, known sizes (volume) and held to determine size effects on fertility (egg hatch), and male survival (longevity). Tested adult males ranged in size from 0.0025 – 0.0334 mm3 and females from 0.0121 – 0.1110 mm3. Logistic regression indicated female nematode fertility was positively influenced by male nematode size, while nematode load and female nematode size had no significant effect. While fertility was reduced statistically in smaller males, even some of the smallest male and female individuals could be fertile. Findings are related to field studies in this system.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Life Sciences, other