Body condition and parasite intensity correlates with escape capacity in Iberian hares (Lepus granatensis)
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Preys require effective anti-predator traits to escape from predator attacks, whereas predators focus on individuals that have lower fitness. This fitness reduction is due to the effects of many regulatory forces such as parasites. We directly observed in the field the escape performance of the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) against coursing predators (measured as the time to be taken by greyhounds) and examined the relationships between parasite loads and duration of escape behaviours to test the hypothesis that predators would more easily catch substandard individuals. We found a negative relationship between the hare’s escape duration and parasite burdens in various taxa (Taenia pisiformis cisticercus, intestinal Coccidia) as well as with parasite diversity. Moreover, the escape duration of the hares is related positively to their condition. In the particular case of T. pisiformis cisticercus, we found a negative relationship with body condition, suggesting that its effect on anti-predation ability could be mediated by direct spoliation of host resources and/or by increasing requirements for anti-parasite defence. As parasite loads were not directly manipulated, experimental studies are needed to elucidate any causal links between parasite and anti-predatory capacity in Iberian hares.