Is there sex-biased resistance and tolerance in Mediterranean wood mouse (**Apodemus sylvaticus**) populations facing multiple helminth infections?
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Oecologia. - Berlin
, p. 123-135
University of Antwerp
Sex-biased parasitism is rarely investigated in relation to host tolerance and resistance, which are two defense strategies hosts can adopt when challenged by parasites. Health or fitness deteriorations in less tolerant individuals with increasing parasite burden would be faster than those in more tolerant ones. Hence, the body condition and reproductive potential of an infected individual host can be considered proxies for tolerance to parasitism. We studied Mediterranean populations of the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and its helminth parasites. We assessed their resistance using the phytohemagglutinin test and spleen size, and their tolerance using body condition in males and females and testes mass in males. In order to avoid spurious correlations, we took into account the phylogeographic structure of the Mediterranean wood mouse populations. We used a mixed model adapted from the animal model used in quantitative genetics. While helminth infection did not differ between the two sexes, females and males differed in their measured defenses. Females seem to invest more in immune defense with increasing risk of parasite diversity, but also appear to be potentially more tolerant of parasitic diversity. These results suggest the existence of sexual differences in resistance and tolerance, and that measurements of parasitic loads alone could be insufficient to detect any underlying sexual differences in the two strategies that have evolved in response to multiple parasitic attacks.