Abiotic environmental conditions, especially temperature and humidity, have profound effects on the growth and development of gregarines, but these effects remain largely undocumented. Quantifying the effects of environmental conditions on the growth and development of exogenous gregarine ontogenetic stages is an important first step in understanding the transmission, population dynamics, and environmental persistence of gregarine infection. In this study, we examined the effect of 6 environmental temperatures (10, 18, 22, 27, 35, and 40 C) at constant humidity (0 mmHg vapor pressure deficit) on gametocyst development and oocyst viability in 2 gregarine species: Blabericola migrator and Blabericola cubensis parasitizing the Tiger-striped Hissing Cockroach, Princisia vanwaerebecki, and the Discoid Cockroach, Blaberus discoidalis, respectively. Temperature has a significant effect on gametocyst development and oocyst viability for both gregarine species. Gametocyst development for both gregarine species displays a similar threshold response to environmental temperature: 10 and 40 C represent extremes outside their developmental range, but within these extremes, the relationship between gametocyst development and temperature is weakly direct. Dehiscence increased with temperature from 68% at 18 C to 93% at 22 C and remained at that level through 35 C. Developmental temperature also has a meaningful but inverse effect on oocyst viability of both B. migrator and B. cubensis. For both species, oocyst viability is highest at 18 and 22 C and is significantly reduced at 27 and 35 C. Thus oocyst production and sporozoite viability are linked but environmentally independent phenomena. Overall, there is an acceptable developmental temperature zone for B. migrator and B. cubensis that ranges from 18 to 27 C, but production of viable sporozoites is greatest in a relatively narrow zone around 22 C. Prior studies have postulated that mechanisms that concentrate oocysts and hosts, such as host behavior or host microhabitat preference, increase the host-oocyst encounter rate and thus transmission. This study indicates that abiotic influences on gametocyst development may also lead to heterogeneous oocyst distributions in the environment and increase the likelihood of host-oocyst encounters.
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Vol. 101 • No. 6