Parasitology Research

, Volume 90, Issue 5, pp 393–399 | Cite as

Host specificity and foraging efficiency in blood-sucking parasite: feeding patterns of the flea Parapulex chephrenis on two species of desert rodents

  • B. R. Krasnov
  • M. Sarfati
  • M. S. Arakelyan
  • I. S. Khokhlova
  • N. V. Burdelova
  • A. A. Degen
Original Paper

Abstract

Parasite species can adapt to ecological, behavioral, physiological and biochemical traits of a particular host species. The flea Parapulex chephrenis occurs on the spiny mouse Acomys cahirinus, but does not occur on a co-existing gerbil, Gerbillus dasyurus. To test the hypothesis that the host species affects feeding parameters of a host-specific flea, we studied the feeding rate, rate of blood digestion and resistance to starvation of P. chephrenis when feeding on A. cahirinus and G. dasyurus. We predicted that P. chephrenis would: (1) fill its gut with blood faster, (2) digest blood for a shorter time, and (3) survive longer when starved while feeding on its specific host, A. cahirinus, than on a non-specific host, G. dasyurus. These three responses were observed when P. chephrenis fed on the different hosts and, consequently, our predictions were supported. Twenty percent of fleas filled their midgut after feeding for 10 min on A. cahirinus but this occurred only after 25 min on G. dasyurus. The middle stage of blood digestion was significantly shorter in all fleas feeding on A. cahirinus than in fleas feeding on G. dasyurus. Flea survival was shorter when feeding on G. dasyurus than when feeding on A. cahirinus at 25°C, but no difference in survival time was found at 15 or 20°C. Both A. cahirinus, the specific host, and G. dasyurus, the non-specific host, co-exist in rocky habitats, yet P. chephrenis occurs on one rodent and not the other. The absence of P. chephrenis on G. dasyurus in nature and the decreased foraging efficiency when feeding on this species in the laboratory suggests that some physiological and biochemical differences between hosts can lead to sharp ecological differences in host-parasite relationships.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport of Israel (research grant 01-18-331 to B.R.K. and I.S.K.). M.S.A. received financial support from the MASHAV (Centre for International Cooperation) program of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The experiments comply with the laws of State of Israel. This is publication no. 145 of the Ramon Science Center and no. 378 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. R. Krasnov
    • 1
  • M. Sarfati
    • 1
  • M. S. Arakelyan
    • 3
  • I. S. Khokhlova
    • 2
  • N. V. Burdelova
    • 1
  • A. A. Degen
    • 2
  1. 1.Ramon Science Center and Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion University of the NegevMizpe Ramon Israel
  2. 2.The Wyler Department of Dryland Agriculture, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion University of the NegevSede Boqer CampusIsrael
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyYerevan State UniversityYerevanArmenia

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