Variable effects of host characteristics on species richness of flea infracommunities in rodents from three continents
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Parasitology research. - Berlin
, p. 2777-2788
University of Antwerp
We studied the effect of host gender and body mass on species richness of flea infracommunities in nine rodent host species from three biomes (temperate zone of central Europe, desert of the Middle East and the tropics of East Africa). Using season- and species-specific generalized linear mixed models and controlling for year-to-year variation, spatial clustering of rodent sampling and over-dispersion of the data, we found inconsistent associations between host characteristics and flea species richness. We found strong support for male-biased flea parasitism, especially during the reproductive period (higher species richness in male hosts than in females) in all considered European rodents (Apodemus agrarius, Myodes glareolus and Microtus arvalis) and in one rodent species from the Middle East (Dipodillus dasyurus). In contrast, two of three African rodent species (Lophuromys kilonzoi and Praomys delectorum) demonstrated a trend of female-biased flea species richness. Positive associations between body mass and the number of flea species were detected mainly in males (five of nine species: A. agrarius, M. glareolus, M. arvalis, D. dasyurus and Mastomys natalensis) and not in females (except for M. natalensis). The results of this study support earlier reports that gender-biased, in general, and male-biased, in particular, infestation by ectoparasites is not a universal rule. This suggests that mechanisms of parasite acquisition by an individual host are species-specific and have evolved independently in different rodent host-flea systems.