The time between infection and the onset of reproduction (maturation time) is a key determinant of body size, fecundity and generation time in parasitic nematodes. An optimality model for maturation time is developed centred on prematurational growth, the duration of which has opposing consequences for fecundity and for survival to reproductive age. The maturation time favoured by natural selection is found to be inversely proportional to prematurational mortality rate. The product of maturation time and mortality rate is predicted to be an invariant number equal to the allometric slope linking daily fecundity to maturation time. Predictions are tested using comparative data on mammalian gastrointestinal nematode taxa. Half the cross-species variation in prepatent period (the time from infection until propagules are shed from the host) is accounted for by this adaptive trade-off hypothesis, even though many biological details are not explicitly modelled. These results are discussed in the light of previous studies and in the context of general models of life history evolution.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics