Vertical transmission of a nematode from female lizards to the brains of their offspring
Feiner, Nathalie et al. (2019), Vertical transmission of a nematode from female lizards to the brains of their offspring, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xd2547dcs
Parasites have evolved a diversity of life styles that exploit the biology of their hosts. Some nematodes that parasitize mammals pass via the placenta or milk from one host to another. Similar cases of vertical transmission have never been reported in avian and non-avian reptiles, suggesting that egg laying may constrain themeans of parasite transmission. However, here we report the first incidence of transovarial transmission of a previously undescribed nematode in an egg-laying amniote, the common wall lizard, Podarcis muralis . Nematodes enter the developing brain from the female ovary early in embryonic development. Infected lizard embryos develop normally and hatch with nematodes residing in their braincase. We present a morphological and molecular phylogenetic characterization of the nematode and suggest that particular features of lizard biology that are absent from birds and turtles facilitated the evolutionary origin of this novel life history.