, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 404–413 | Cite as

Ectoparasite Infestations of Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are Associated with Small-Scale Landscape Structures in an Urban–Suburban Environment

  • Sven Thamm
  • Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
  • Konstans WellsEmail author
Original Contribution


Animals that exploit heterogeneous and patchy environments encounter different local habitat conditions that influence their interaction with the environment, such as the acquisition of parasites. How and at which scales interaction processes between parasites, hosts, and the environment are realized remains largely unknown. We examined the infestation patterns of 56 hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) with fleas and ticks at a small spatial scale within a 12 km2 area along a suburban–urban gradient in southwestern Germany. The structure and type of habitats surrounding hedgehog capture locations were estimated from digital land cover data within radii of 20, 50, and 100 m. These were assumed to match the ranging area and underlying heterogeneous landscape matrix in which host–parasite interactions take place. Landscape-based models suggested that flea burdens significantly decreased with the diversity and heterogeneity of land cover, as well as with the areal coverage of roads within radii of 50 and 100 m. Overall tick infestation levels were mostly explained by the number of arable patches and the areal coverage of roads within radii of 50 and 100 m, as well as date of capture. Examination of the semivariance in model residuals revealed no evident spatial structure in any of the models with flea or tick infestation patterns as response variables. Our results, which are based on a sampling scheme within a relatively small spatio-temporal window, suggest that heterogeneous landscape matrices affect parasitization rates of animals in urban environments, with clear differences at the individual level.


Landscape structure Ixodes Host–parasite interaction Macroparasite epidemics Matrix heterogeneity Spatial epidemiology Urbanization 



We thank the state agency “Regierungspräsidium Tübingen” for a research permit and for approving the study. We are further indebted to AEG ID, Germany, for providing transponders free of charge. We thank all reviewers and Christoph F.J. Meyer for comments that have improved this article.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sven Thamm
    • 1
  • Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
    • 1
    • 2
  • Konstans Wells
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Experimental EcologyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaPanama

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