a1 Biological Sciences Department, Rabigh-Faculty of Science and Arts, King Abdulaziz University, PO Box 344, Rabigh 21911, Saudi Arabia
Factors regulating gastrointestinal nematode infrapopulations are to a great extent density-dependent. Here, 23 natural infrapopulations (41–281 individuals) of the viviparous nematode Procamallanus elatensis (Camallanidae) from the fish Siganus rivulatus were found distributed in a well-defined fundamental niche (posterior 55% of the intestine). Immature worms were mostly found in the anterior third of this niche, while mature worms were found in aggregations posterior to them and followed by gravid females in the posterior 20% of the intestine. This distribution strongly suggests that worms migrate towards the posterior intestine while they mature, copulate and reproduce. In small infrapopulations, the sex ratios were distinctly female-biased and the number of gravid females was low. In large infrapopulations, the sex ratios were distinctly male-biased and the number of gravid females was high. However, the mean lengths of both immature males and females and mature females decreased dramatically as the infrapopulation size increased, while those of mature males increased significantly. These results strongly suggest intraspecific competition and density-dependent regulation of mean worm length, and the increase in the mean length of mature males strongly suggests intense sexual selection and competition between mature males. Production of larvae by female worms decreased significantly as the infrapopulation size increased, suggesting a density-dependent reduction in female worm fertility. The results are statistically significant and strongly suggest that infrapopulation self-regulation is through density-dependent mechanisms, in which development of immature worms, infrapopulation size, sex ratio, sexual selection and carrying capacity of the fundamental niche play essential roles in shaping and regulating the infrapopulations.
(Received April 23 2011)
(Accepted August 25 2011)
(Online publication September 26 2011)