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Using data on 66 species from 18 families and 6 orders, we examine patterns of interspecific covariation in female size, egg size, time from infection to production of infective stages (prepatency period), duration of reproduction (patency period), and fecundity in mammalian intestinal nematodes. Nematode species with shorter prepatency periods are smaller, have lower rates of somatic growth, lower fecundity and shorter reproductive periods; those with longer prepatency periods have the opposite suite of characters. These patterns are very different from that found in interspecific analyses of life history variation in other taxa. This may be a consequence of the energy-rich environment intestinal nematodes exploit, though comparable studies of free-living nematodes or other soft-bodies invertebrate phyla have not yet been done. The advantages of delaying reproduction, with the subsequent increase in fecundity and reproductive lifespan, depend on a number of factors, such as the relative importance of prepatency in the determination of parasite generation times, and adult mortality rates. Contrary to previous claims, nematode egg size is shown to be highly variable (as variable as female size), yet this variation is not associated with any other component of reproductive rate. This may be because of interspecific variation in egg shell thickness and complexity.
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