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From trees to fleas: masting indirectly affects flea abundance on a rodent host.

Authors
  • Baláž, Ivan1
  • Bogdziewicz, Michał2, 3
  • Dziemian-Zwolak, Sylwia2
  • Presti, Carlotta Lo4
  • Wróbel, Aleksandra5
  • Zduniak, Milena2
  • Zwolak, Rafał2
  • 1 Faculty of Natural Sciences and Informatics, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Nitra, Slovakia. , (Slovakia)
  • 2 Department of Systematic Zoology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poznań, Poland. , (Poland)
  • 3 INRAE, LESSEM, University Grenoble Alpes, Saint-Martind'Hères, France. , (France)
  • 4 University of Catania, Catania, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 5 Department of Zoology, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Poznań, Poland. , (Poland)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Integrative zoology
Publication Date
May 01, 2023
Volume
18
Issue
3
Pages
440–452
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1111/1749-4877.12671
PMID: 35848894
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Mast seeding causes strong fluctuations in populations of forest animals. Thus, this phenomenon can be used as a natural experiment to examine how variation in host abundance affects parasite loads. We investigated fleas infesting yellow-necked mice in beech forest after 2 mast and 2 non-mast years. We tested 2 mutually exclusive scenarios: (1) as predicted by classical models of density-dependent transmission, an increase in host density will cause an increase in ectoparasite abundance (defined as the number of parasites per host), versus (2) an increase in host density will cause a decline in flea abundance ("dilution," which is thought to occur when parasite population growth is slower than that of the host). In addition, we assessed whether masting alters the relationship between host traits (sex and body mass) and flea abundance. We found a hump-shaped relationship between host and flea abundance. Thus, the most basic predictions are too simple to describe ectoparasite dynamics in this system. In addition, masting modified seasonal dynamics of flea abundance, but did not affect the relationship between host traits and flea abundance (individuals with the highest body mass hosted the most fleas; after controlling for body mass, parasite abundance did not vary between sexes). Our results demonstrate that pulses of tree reproduction can indirectly, through changes in host densities, drive patterns of ectoparasite infestation. © 2022 The Authors. Integrative Zoology published by International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

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