Vertical transmission of a nematode from female lizards to the brains of their offspring

Nathalie Feiner, Sueli De Souza-Lima, Fátima Jorge, Soraya Naem, Fabien Aubret, Tobias Uller, Steven A. Nadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasites have evolved a diversity of lifestyles 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 nonavian reptiles, suggesting that egg laying may constrain the means 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-926
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology


  • Lizards
  • Nematodes
  • Parasites
  • Prenatal infection
  • Transovarial transmission
  • Vertical transmission


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