Tumors alter life history traits in the freshwater cnidarian, Hydra oligactis

Authors: Justine Boutry, Sophie Tissot, Narimène Mekaoui, Antoine M. Dujon, Jordan Meliani, Rodrigo Hamede, Beata Ujvari, Aurora M. Nedelcu, Jácint Tokolyi, Frédéric Thomas

Source: iScience (Aug 2022)


Although tumors can occur during the lifetime of most multicellular organisms and have the potential to influence health, how they alter life-history traits in tumor-bearing individuals remains poorly documented. This question was explored using the freshwater cnidarian Hydra oligactis, a species sometimes affected by vertically transmitted tumors.

We found that tumorous polyps have a reduced survival compared to healthy ones. However, they also displayed higher asexual reproductive effort, by producing more often multiple buds than healthy ones. A similar acceleration is observed for the sexual reproduction (estimated through gamete production). Because tumoral cells are not transmitted through this reproductive mode, this finding suggests that hosts may adaptively respond to tumors, compensating the expected fitness losses by increasing their immediate reproductive effort.

This study supports the hypothesis that tumorigenesis has the potential to influence the biology, ecology, and evolution of multicellular species, and thus should be considered more by evolutionary ecologists.