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Many organisms face energetic trade-offs between defense against parasites and other host processes that may determine overall consequences of infection. These trade-offs may be particularly evident during unfavorable environmental conditions or energetically demanding life history stages. Amphibian metamorphosis, an ecologically important developmental period, is associated with drastic morphological and physiological changes and substantial energetic costs. Effects of the trematode parasite Echinostoma trivolvis have been documented during early amphibian development, but effects during later development and metamorphosis are largely unknown. Using a laboratory experiment, we examined the energetic costs of late development and metamorphosis coupled with E. trivolvis infection in wood frogs, Lithobates [=Rana] sylvaticus. Echinostoma infection intensity did not differ between tadpoles examined prior to and after completing metamorphosis, suggesting that metacercariae were retained through metamorphosis. Infection with E. trivolvis contributed to a slower growth rate and longer development period prior to the initiation of metamorphosis. In contrast, E. trivolvis infection did not affect energy expenditure during late development or metamorphosis. Possible explanations for these results include the presence of parasites not interfering with pronephros degradation during metamorphosis or the mesonephros compensating for any parasite damage. Overall, the energetic costs of metamorphosis for wood frogs were comparable to other species with similar life history traits, but differed from a species with a much shorter duration of metamorphic climax. Our findings contribute to understanding the possible role of energetic trade-offs between parasite defense and host processes by considering parasite infection with simultaneous energetic demands during a sensitive period of development.


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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology

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