Inter-specific parasite competition: mixed infections of Schistosoma mansoni and S. rodhaini in the definitive host.
Norton AJ., Webster JP., Kane RA., Rollinson D.
Competition between parasite species has been predicted to be an important force shaping parasite and host ecology and evolution, although empirical data are often lacking. Using the Mus musculus-Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma rodhaini host-parasite systems we characterized mate choice and inter-specific competition between these two schistosome species. Simultaneous infections revealed species-specific mate preferences for both species as well as suggesting mating competition, with male S. rodhaini appearing dominant over male S. mansoni. S. rodhaini homologous pairs were also shown to have increased reproduction per paired female in the presence of a competitor in simultaneous infections. Overall total reproductive success was, however, similar between the two species under conditions of direct competition due to the greater initial infectivity of S. mansoni in comparison to S. rodhaini. Inter-specific competition was also implicated as increased parasite virulence to the host. The potential effects of such interactions on parasite and host ecology and evolution in nature are discussed.