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Patterns of trunk spine growth in two congeneric species of acanthocephalan: investment in attachment may differ between sexes and species

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2012

Cavanilles Institute of Biology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Calle Catedrático José Beltrán 2, E-46980, Paterna, Valencia, Spain
Laboratorio de Parasitología, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata – Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina
Cavanilles Institute of Biology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Calle Catedrático José Beltrán 2, E-46980, Paterna, Valencia, Spain
Departamento de Zoología, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, D.F., México
Centro Nacional Patagónico, CONICET, Boulevard Brown 3600 (9120), Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina
Cavanilles Institute of Biology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Calle Catedrático José Beltrán 2, E-46980, Paterna, Valencia, Spain
*Corresponding author: Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, CalleCatedrático José Beltrán N. 2, 46980, Paterna Valencia, Spain. Tel: +34 963543657. Fax +34 963543733. E-mail:


Acanthocephalans have evolved a hooked proboscis and some taxa have trunk spines to attach to their definitive hosts. These structures are generated before being used, thus a key question is how investment in attachment could optimally be allocated through the ontogeny. The number and arrangement of hooks and spines are never modified in the definitive host, but it is unclear whether these structures grow during adult development. A comparison of the size of trunk spines between cystacanths and adults of Corynosoma cetaceum and C. australe indicated that spines grow in both species, but only in females, which also had significantly larger spines than males. This sexual dimorphism did not result from pure allometry because the body of females was smaller, and did not grow more than that of males. However, having a longer lifespan, females would need to withstand the extreme flow conditions prevailing in marine mammals for longer, inducing different investment and development schedules for spines. Patterns of spine growth also differed between species: fore-trunk spines grew in both species, but hind-trunk spines did only in C. cetaceum. In conclusion, investment strategies on attachment may differ, not only between congeneric species of acanthocephalan, but also between sexes of the same species.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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