Studying resource specialization at the individual level can identify factors constraining the evolution of generalism. We quantified genotypic and phenotypic variability among infective stages of 20 clones of the parasitic trematode Maritrema novaezealandensis and measured their infection success and post-infection fitness (growth, egg output) in several crabs and amphipods. First, different clones varied in their infection success of different crustaceans. Second, neither genetic nor phenotypic traits had consistent effects on infection success across all host species. Although the results suggest a relationship between infection success and phenotypic variability, phenotypically variable clones were not better at infecting more host species than less variable ones. Third, genetic and phenotypic traits also showed no consistent correlations with post-infection fitness measures. Overall, we found no consistent clone-level specialization, with some clones acting as specialists and others, generalists. The trematode population therefore maintains an overall generalist strategy by comprising a mixture of clone-level specialists and generalists.
- Host-parasite interactions