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Parasitol Today. 1990 May;6(5):160-3.

Why do schistosomes have separate sexes?

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Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Paul Basch postulates that the familiar Schistosoma of humans evolved from hermaphroditic blood flukes of Mesozoic reptiles as those host became warm-blooded. The reproductive superiority that accompanied tendencies to protandry and protogyny in hermaphroditic blood flukes has led to subsequent sexual separation and dimorphism but substantial fragments of the ancestral contrasex genome persist in present-day males, as shown by common tendencies toward hermaphroditism. In present-day females the loss of the male-specific genome is far more complete and in the process of optimizing reproductive efficiency, present-day females have sacrificed many structural elements including locomotory and pharyngeal muscles. These losses have created dependency on the well-muscled male, whose primary functions seem to be compensatory; ie., physical transport of the female from the point of pairing to the point of egg deposition, stimulating growth and development by pumping blood into the female, who unpaired would starve, plus, less importantly, fertilization of the oocytes.


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