Trematode life cycles: Short is sweet?

  • Poulin R
  • Cribb T
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Complex life cycles are a hallmark of parasitic trematodes. In several trematode taxa, however, the life cycle is truncated: fewer hosts are used than in a typical three-host cycle, with fewer transmission events. Eliminating one host from the life cycle can be achieved in at least three different ways. Some trematodes show even more extreme forms of life cycle abbreviations, using only a mollusc to complete their cycle, with or without sexual reproduction. The occurrence of these phenomena among trematode families are reviewed here and show that life cycle truncation has evolved independently many times in the phylogeny of trematodes. The hypotheses proposed to account for life-cycle truncation, in addition to the factors preventing the adoption of shorter cycles by all trematodes are also discussed. The study of shorter life cycles offers an opportunity to understand the forces shaping the evolution of life cycles in general.

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