, Volume 100, Issue 5, pp 949-954
Date: 05 Jan 2007

Susceptibility to infection by a haemogregarine parasite and the impact of infection in the Australian sleepy lizard Tiliqua rugosa

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The Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis on haemoparasite-mediated sexual selection and certain studies of fitness are based on the assumption that blood parasite infections are detrimental to their hosts. However, there are few reports that have demonstrated harmful effects of endemic blood parasites on fitness in wild populations, and it has even been suggested that they may be non-pathogenic. In this paper, we show that individuals of the Australian sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) have smaller home ranges when they are infected with the haemogregarine blood parasite Hemolivia mariae than when no infection can be detected. An apparently contradictory result was that lizards with larger home ranges were more susceptible to infection under experimental exposure to Hemolivia. We propose that lizards sacrifice defence against pathogens by increased activity, perhaps associated with maintaining home ranges and mating opportunities. As a consequence, they gain higher parasite loads, which in turn inhibit their activity. In this case, the parasite–host interaction may act as a buffer of lizard activity.