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Morphological allometry and intersexuality in horsehair-worm-infected mantids, Hierodula formosana (Mantodea: Mantidae)


Parasitic castration is a strategy used by parasites to minimize damage to the host by consuming its reproductive system, which results in the morphological alteration of the host. We determined that the forewing shape and density of the antennal sensilla of field-collected adult male mantids (Hierodula formosana), infected by horsehair worms (Chordodes formosanus) was partially feminized (intersexuality), and both male and female mantids infected by horsehair worms exhibited allometric changes in their wings and walking legs. In addition, the testes of most infected male adults disappeared or reduced in size, whereas the number of ovarioles in infected female adults was unaffected. The infection mainly influenced the structures related to host reproduction and locomotion, suggesting unbalanced energy exploitation and the reduction of parasitic virulence. In addition, the intersexuality of infected male adults indicated that sexual differentiation in insects, which researchers have considered to be an autonomous process, was influenced by the infection. The similarity of the antennae of infected male adults with those of last-instar female nymphs suggested that parasitic juvenilization may cause such feminization, but the mechanism of parasitic influence on insect sex characteristics should be studied further.

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*Corresponding author: Department of Entomology, National Taiwan University, Taipei 106, Taiwan. E-mail:
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