Role of parasite transmission in promoting inbreeding: II. Pedigree reconstruction reveals sib-transmission and consequent kin-mating. Academic Article uri icon


  • Even though parasitic flatworms are one of the most species-rich groups of hermaphroditic organisms, we know virtually nothing of their mating systems (selfing or kin-mating rates) in nature. Hence, we lack an understanding of the role of inbreeding in parasite evolution. The natural mating systems of parasitic flatworms have remained elusive due to the inherent difficulty in generating progeny-array data in many parasite systems. New developments in pedigree reconstruction allow direct inference of realized selfing rates in nature by simply using a sample of genotyped individuals. We built upon this advancement by utilizing the closed mating systems, that is, individual hosts, of endoparasites. In particular, we created a novel means to use pedigree reconstruction data to estimate potential kin-mating rates. With data from natural populations of a tapeworm, we demonstrated how our newly developed methods can be used to test for cosibling transmission and inbreeding depression. We then showed how independent estimates of the two mating system components, selfing and kin-mating rates, account for the observed levels of inbreeding in the populations. Thus, our results suggest that these natural parasite populations are in inbreeding equilibrium. Pedigree reconstruction analyses along with the new companion methods we developed will be broadly applicable across a myriad of parasite species. As such, we foresee that a new frontier will emerge wherein the diverse life histories of flatworm parasites could be utilized in comparative evolutionary studies to broadly address ecological factors or life history traits that drive mating systems and hence inbreeding in natural populations.

published proceedings

  • Mol Ecol

altmetric score

  • 3.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Detwiler, J. T., & Criscione, C. D.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Detwiler, Jillian T||Criscione, Charles D

publication date

  • September 2017