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How to become a parasite without sex chromosomes: a hypothesis for the evolution of Strongyloides spp. and related nematodes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2014

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 35, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany
*Corresponding author: Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abteilung IV, Evolutionsbiologie, Spemannstrasse 35, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany. E-mail:


Parasitic lifestyles evolved many times independently. Just within the phylum Nematoda animal parasitism must have arisen at least four times. Switching to a parasitic lifestyle is expected to lead to changes in various life history traits including reproductive strategies. Parasitic nematode worms of the genus Strongyloides represent an interesting example to study these processes because they are still capable of forming facultative free-living generations in between parasitic ones. The parasitic generation consists of females only, which reproduce parthenogenetically. The sex in the progeny of the parasitic worms is determined by environmental cues, which control a, presumably ancestral, XX/XO chromosomal sex determining system. In some species the X chromosome is fused with an autosome and one copy of the X-derived sequences is removed by sex-specific chromatin diminution in males. Here I propose a hypothesis for how today's Strongyloides sp. might have evolved from a sexual free-living ancestor through dauer larvae forming free-living and facultative parasitic intermediate stages.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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