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Seasonality of helminth infection in wild red deer varies between individuals and between parasite taxa

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1410-1420
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Early online date9 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Mar 2018


Parasitism in wild mammals can vary according to myriad intrinsic and extrinsic factors, many of which vary seasonally. However, seasonal variation in parasitism is rarely studied using repeated samples from known individuals. Here we used a wild population of individually recognized red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the Isle of Rum to quantify seasonality and intrinsic factors affecting gastrointestinal helminth parasitism over the course of a year. We collected 1020 non-invasive faecal samples from 328 known individuals which we then analysed for propagules of three helminth taxa: strongyle nematodes, the common liver fluke Fasciola hepatica and the tissue nematode Elaphostrongylus cervi. Zero-inflated Poisson models were used to investigate how season, age and sex were associated with parasite prevalence and count intensity, while Poisson models were used to quantify individual repeatability within and between sampling seasons. Parasite intensity and prevalence varied according to all investigated factors, with opposing seasonality, age profiles and sex biases between parasite taxa. Repeatability was moderate, decreased between seasons and varied between parasites; both F. hepatica and E. cervi showed significant between-season repeatability, while strongyle nematode counts were only repeatable within-season and showed no repeatability within individuals across the year.

    Research areas

  • Disease ecology, Helminths, repeatability, seasonality, ungulate, wild mammal, zero-inflated models

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