Polymorphic parasitic larvae cooperate to build swimming colonies luring hosts.

Krupenko D, Miroliubov A, Kryukov E, Faure L, Minemizu R, Haag L, Lundgren M, Kameneva P, Kastriti ME, Adameyko I

Curr. Biol. 33 (20) 4524-4531.e4 [2023-10-23; online 2023-09-22]

Parasites have evolved a variety of astonishing strategies to survive within their hosts, yet the most challenging event in their personal chronicles is the passage from one host to another. It becomes even more complex when a parasite needs to pass through the external environment. Therefore, the free-living stages of parasites present a wide range of adaptations for transmission. Parasitic flatworms from the group Digenea (flukes) have free-living larvae, cercariae, which are remarkably diverse in structure and behavior.1,2 One of the cercariae transmission strategies is to attain a prey-like appearance for the host.3 This can be done through the formation of a swimming aggregate of several cercariae adjoined together by their tails.4 Through the use of live observations and light, electron, and confocal microscopy, we described such a supposedly prey-mimetic colony comprising cercariae of two distinct morphotypes. They are functionally specialized: larger morphotype (sailors) enable motility, and smaller morphotype (passengers) presumably facilitate infection. The analysis of local read alignments between the two samples reveals that both cercaria types have identical 18S, 28S, and 5.8S rRNA genes. Further phylogenetic analysis of these ribosomal sequences indicates that our specimen belongs to the digenean family Acanthocolpidae, likely genus Pleorchis. This discovery provides a unique example and a novel insight into how morphologically and functionally heterogeneous individuals of the same species cooperate to build colonial organisms for the purpose of infection. This strategy bears resemblance to the cooperating castes of the same species found among insects.5.

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NGI Uppsala (SNP&SEQ Technology Platform) [Service]

National Genomics Infrastructure [Service]

PubMed 37741283

DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2023.08.090

Crossref 10.1016/j.cub.2023.08.090

pii: S0960-9822(23)01170-3

Publications 9.5.0