Organisms dispose of limited resources that are allocated to different functions such as growth, reproduction, survival, and maintenance. This leads to trade-offs, as resources invested into one function cannot be invested into another. Parasites can act on these trade-offs and induce shifts in the optimum of life-history traits. Studying the causes and consequences of parasite infestation is thus crucial for the understanding of the evolution of life-histories. As of yet, however, the importance of host-parasite interactions in shaping life-history evolution remains poorly understood.
In this project you will study the causes and consequences of the Black Spot Disease (BSD) in the placental live-bearing fish species Poeciliopsis retropinna from Costa Rica. BSD is caused by a trematode, which induces the production of black spots on the body surface of the fish. Specifically, you will (i) quantify the intensity of parasite infestation by scoring the number of black spots on preserved fish, (ii) search for possible predictors of parasite susceptibility (e.g. environmental variables, maternal phenotype), and (iii) quantify the consequences of parasite infestation for the embryo development.
P. retropinna females transfer nutrients to their developing embryos via a placenta-like structure leading to opportunities for maternal-offspring interactions throughout pregnancy. Since the embryos are carried by the female throughout gestation, live-bearing fish are an ideal system to study the consequences of parasite infestation in the parental generation for maternal effects and offspring traits.
|Examiner:||Prof.Dr. Johan van Leeuwen|
|Dr. Bart Pollux|
|Credits:||12 ECTS (or in consultation)|
|Begin date:||2019-04-15 (flexible)|