Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 November 2016
A number of parasites with complex life cycles can abbreviate their life cycles to increase the likelihood of reproducing. For example, some trematodes can facultatively skip the definitive host and produce viable eggs while still inside their intermediate host. The resulting shorter life cycle is clearly advantageous when transmission probabilities to the definitive hosts are low. Coitocaecum parvum can mature precociously (progenesis), and produce eggs by selfing inside its amphipod second intermediate host. Environmental factors such as definitive host density and water temperature influence the life-history strategy adopted by C. parvum in their crustacean host. However, it is also possible that information about transmission opportunities gathered earlier in the life cycle (i.e. by cercariae-producing sporocysts in the first intermediate host) could have priming effects on the adoption of one or the other life strategy. Here we document the effects of environmental parameters (host chemical cues and temperature) on cercarial production within snail hosts and parasite life-history strategy in the amphipod host. We found that environmental cues perceived early in life have limited priming effects on life-history strategies later in life and probably account for only a small part of the variation among conspecific parasites. External cues gathered at the metacercarial stage seem to largely override potential effects of the environmental conditions experienced by early stages of the parasite.