Compared to other monogenoidean groups, viviparous gyrodactylids exhibit extraordinary species diversity and broad host range. It has been suggested that this evolutionary success is associated with a suite of morphological and life-history traits that include, in part, continuous transmission (i.e., ability to infect new hosts throughout the gyrodactylid life cycle). Experiments were conducted to explore the putative adaptive advantage of continuous transmission within viviparous gyrodactylids during colonization of new host resources. Differences in infrapopulation growth, such as abundance, prevalence, and duration of the infection, of Gyrodactylus anisopharynx on 3 species of fish—Corydoras paleatus and Corydoras ehrhardti (both natural hosts) as well as Corydoras schwartzi (a host not known to harbor G. anisopharynx)—held under isolated and grouped conditions were determined. Results showed that infrapopulations of G. anisopharynx on C. paleatus and C. schwartzi had higher growth when the parasite had the opportunity for host transfer (grouped hosts). Infrapopulations of G. anisopharynx on isolated and grouped C. ehrhardti showed an opposite trend, although differences in mean duration and maximum abundance were not statistically different. Results obtained from experiments with C. paleatus and C. schwartzi support the hypothesis that continuous transmission in viviparous gyrodactylids enhances colonization success, probably by allowing initial avoidance of Red Queen dynamics. The absence of statistical differences between infrapopulations on isolated and grouped C. ehrhardti suggests that parasite dynamics may be influenced by factors other than continuous transmission in this host.
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