Gregarine infection accelerates larval development of the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis (Bouché)

Parasitology. 2017 Apr;144(4):419-425. doi: 10.1017/S0031182016002122. Epub 2017 Jan 11.


A high degree of specialization between host and parasite is a well-known outcome of a long history of coevolution, and it is strikingly illustrated in a coordination of their life cycles. In some cases, the arms race ensued at the establishment of a symbiotic relationship results in the adoption of manipulative strategies by the parasite. We have already learned that Steinina ctenocephali, a gregarine living in the alimentary canal of cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis follows its phenology and metamorphosis. Despite these findings the outcome of their symbiotic partnership (mutualist, parasitic or commensal) remains unclear. To address this important question, we measured life history parameters of the flea in the presence of varying infection intensities of gregarine oocysts in laboratory conditions. We found that neither the emergence nor survival rate of fleas was affected by harbouring the gregarines. More surprisingly, our results show that flea larvae infected with gregarines developed faster and emerged earlier than the control group. This gregarine therefore joins the selected group of protists that can modify physiological host traits and provides not only new model taxa to be explored in an evolutionary scenario, but also potential development of control strategies of cat flea.

PMID:28073394 | DOI:10.1017/S0031182016002122