Many organisms develop as colonies that fragment, spreading the colony genotype over space and time. Such persistence and amplification of a genetically homogenous resource may influence parasite virulence strategies – yet, surprisingly, this remains poorly examined.
Freshwater bryozoans are common but overlooked colonial invertebrates that fragment and produce asexual seed-like statoblasts. We now know that myxozoan endoparasites exploit bryozoans, undergoing vertical transmission (VT) to statoblasts and colony fragments, and achieving occasional horizontal transmission (HT) to secondary fish hosts.
This project will expand on these preliminary insights to examine VT of myxozoans in a broad range of bryozoan hosts to address the following:
1) Does VT occur generally?
2) Does VT vary in space and time and with host genotype?
3) How might variation in VT influence HT to fish?
The research would entail extensive fieldwork and laboratory studies, including microscopy and molecular techniques to detect infections and to genotype hosts.