Sublethal effects of natural parasitism act through maternal, but not paternal; reproductive success in a wild population

Olivia Hicks, Jonathan A Green, Francis Daunt, Emma J A Cunningham, Mark Newell, Adam Butler, Sarah J Burthe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Parasites are a major component of all animal populations. Males and females often differ in their levels of parasite prevalence, potentially leading to sex differences in the impact of parasitism on fitness, with important implications for the evolution of parasite and host traits including resistance, tolerance, and virulence. However, quantitative measures of the impact of parasitism under free-living conditions are extremely rare, as they require detailed host demographic data with measures of parasite burden over time. Here, we use endoscopy for direct quantification of natural-parasite burdens and relate these to reproductive success over 7 yr in a wild population of seabirds. Contrary to predictions, only female burdens were associated with negative impacts of parasitism on breeding success, despite males having significantly higher burdens. Female reproductive success declined by 30% across the range of natural parasite burdens. These effects persisted when accounting for interannual population differences in breeding success. Our results provide quantitative estimates of profound sub-lethal effects of parasitism on the population. Importantly, they highlight how parasites act unpredictably to shape ecological and evolutionary processes in different components of the same population, with implications for demography and selection on host and parasite traits.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02772
Issue number8
Early online date5 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jun 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • breeding success
  • endoparasites
  • fitness
  • life history
  • macroparasites
  • maternal
  • nematodes
  • parasitism
  • paternal
  • reproduction
  • sex differences
  • trade-off


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