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Parasitic castration by Xenos vesparum depends on host gender

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2014

FEDERICO CAPPA*
Affiliation:
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Via Madonna del piano 6, 50019, Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy
FABIO MANFREDINI
Affiliation:
School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK
ROMANO DALLAI
Affiliation:
Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva, Università degli Studi di Siena, Via Aldo Moro, 53100, Siena, Italy
MARCO GOTTARDO
Affiliation:
Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva, Università degli Studi di Siena, Via Aldo Moro, 53100, Siena, Italy
LAURA BEANI
Affiliation:
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Via Madonna del piano 6, 50019, Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy
*
*Corresponding author: Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Via Madonna del piano 6, 50019, Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Italy. E-mail: federico.cappa@unifi.it

Summary

Host castration represents a mechanism used by parasites to exploit energy resources from their hosts by interfering with their reproductive development or to extend host lifespan by removing risks associated with reproductive activity. One of the most intriguing groups of parasitic castrators is represented by the insects belonging to the order Strepsiptera. The macroparasite Xenos vesparum can produce dramatic phenotypic alterations in its host, the paper wasp Polistes dominula. Parasitized female wasps have undeveloped ovaries and desert the colony without performing any social task. However, very little attention has been given to the parasitic impact of X. vesparum on the male phenotype. Here, we investigated the effects of this parasite on the sexual behaviour and the morpho-physiology of P. dominula males. We found that, differently from female wasps, parasitized males are not heavily affected by Xenos: they maintain their sexual behaviour and ability to discriminate between female castes. Furthermore, the structure of their reproductive apparatus is not compromised by the parasite. We think that our results, demonstrating that the definition of X. vesparum as a parasitoid does not apply to infected males of P. dominula, provide a new perspective to discuss and maybe reconsider the traditional view of strepsipteran parasites.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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