, Volume 96, Issue 10, pp 1157–1168 | Cite as

Deviance partitioning of host factors affecting parasitization in the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus)

  • Vanesa AlzagaEmail author
  • Paolo Tizzani
  • Pelayo Acevedo
  • Francisco Ruiz-Fons
  • Joaquín Vicente
  • Christian Gortázar


Deviance partitioning can provide new insights into the ecology of host-parasite interactions. We studied the host-related factors influencing parasite prevalence, abundance, and species richness in European brown hares (Lepus europaeus) from northern Spain. We defined three groups of explanatory variables: host environment, host population, and individual factors. We hypothesised that parasite infection rates and species richness were determined by different host-related factors depending on the nature of the parasite (endo- or ectoparasite, direct or indirect life cycle). To assess the relative importance of these components, we used deviance partitioning, an innovative approach. The explained deviance (ED) was higher for parasite abundance models, followed by those of prevalence and then by species richness, suggesting that parasite abundance models may best describe the host factors influencing parasitization. Models for parasites with a direct life cycle yielded higher ED values than those for indirect life cycle ones. As a general trend, host individual factors explained the largest proportion of the ED, followed by host environmental factors and, finally, the interaction between host environmental and individual factors. Similar hierarchies were found for parasite prevalence, abundance, and species richness. Individual factors comprised the most relevant group of explanatory variables for both types of parasites. However, host environmental factors were also relevant in models for indirect life-cycle parasites. These findings are consistent with the idea of the host as the main habitat of the parasite; whereas, for indirect life-cycle parasites, transmission would be also modulated by environmental conditions. We suggest that parasitization can be used not only as an indicator of individual fitness but also as an indicator of environmental quality for the host. This research underlines the importance of monitoring parasite rates together with environmental, population, and host factors.


Deviance partitioning Host factors Environment Lepus europaeus Parasite 



Our gratitude to T. Czeschlik and four anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions on a previous version of our manuscript. This study was supported by the Cantabria Government. We thank Jesús Pérez (Cetyma), Julián Martín (Sociedad de Fomento de Caza y Pesca), and José Cobo for assistance in the sample collection, and Federación Cántabra de Caza for the support during sampling. V. Alzaga received a grant from Cantabria Government; P. Tizzani enjoyed a grant from Leonardo programme during IREC period; P. Acevedo is currently enjoying a Juan de la Cierva research contract awarded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN) and is also supported by the project CGL2006-09567/BO; and F. Ruiz-Fons is supported by the “Instituto de Salud Carlos III” from the Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo. The authors declare that samples were obtained from a legal hunting method. This study complies with the Spanish and Cantabrian laws. This hunting method obeys the Berne Convention agreements about wildlife capture methods (Annexe VI). We were not responsible for killing the hares and did not pay for the specimens.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanesa Alzaga
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Paolo Tizzani
    • 2
  • Pelayo Acevedo
    • 3
  • Francisco Ruiz-Fons
    • 4
  • Joaquín Vicente
    • 1
  • Christian Gortázar
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)Ciudad RealSpain
  2. 2.Cerigefas, Centro Ricerche sulla Gestione della Fauna SelvaticaUniversitá degli Studi di TorinoSampeyreItaly
  3. 3.Biogeography, Diversity, and Conservation Research Team, Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of MalagaMálagaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Animal HealthNEIKER-TECNALIA, Instituto Vasco de Investigación y Desarrollo AgrarioDerioSpain
  5. 5.Gestión Ambiental, Viveros y Repoblaciones de NavarraPamplonaSpain

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