, Volume 101, Issue 4, pp 1161-1164
Date: 23 May 2007

The intestinal nematode Trichuris arvicolae affects the fecundity of its host, the common vole Microtus arvalis

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Parasites have detrimental effects on host fitness. Consequently, they play a major role for host population dynamics. In this study, we investigated experimentally the impact of the nematode Trichuris arvicolae on the reproduction of its host, the common vole Microtus arvalis. Wild common voles were trapped in east of France and reared in standardized conditions before being experimentally infected. Infection with Trichuris arvicolae did not affect host consumption of food or water. Parasitized females gave birth to slightly less pups (mean 3.36 ± 0.38) than unparasitized females (mean 3.60 ± 0.40). Controlling for natal litter size using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), T. arvicolae infection had a significant effect on the individual mass at birth, with pups from parasitized females having significantly lower mass (2.11 g ± 0.01) than pups from unparasitized females (2.20 g ± 0.01). Other measures of host reproductive outputs (time to first reproduction, mass of pups at weaning, litter survival) were not affected by maternal parasite infection. We discuss how these changes in M. arvalis reproductive investments associated with T. arvicolae infection must now be investigated in the context of physiological trade-offs.