Density dependence of feeding success in haematophagous ectoparasites. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • We studied the effect of density on feeding success of 2 fleas, Xenopsylla conformis and Xenopsylla ramesis, when exploiting rodents Meriones crassus and Gerbillus dasyurus. We tested 2 alternative hypotheses: (i) that intraspecific interference competition occurs and, thus, feeding success of a flea decreases with an increase in density and (ii) that facilitation via suppression of a host defence system occurs and thus, feeding success of a flea increases with an increase in density. The mean size of a bloodmeal and the proportion of highly engorged individuals in X. conformis feeding on both hosts were affected by density. When on G. dasyurus, both the size of a bloodmeal and the proportion of highly engorged individuals were lower at low (5-15 fleas per host) than at high (25-50 fleas per host) densities. The opposite was true when this flea fed on M. crassus. The mean bloodmeal size and proportions of highly engorged X. ramesis parasitizing either host were not affected by flea density. This study showed that the density dependence of feeding success of a flea (a) varied both between fleas and within-fleas between hosts and (b) indicated either intraspecific competition or facilitation via the host in a particular flea-host association.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007