Effects of food abundance, age, and flea infestation on the body condition and immunological variables of a rodent host, and their consequences for flea survival Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Temporal variation in body condition and immunological variables of animals that harbor parasites may explain patterns of variation in infestation, as well as parasite impact on the host. We emulated such variability in Sundevall's jirds by manipulating food availability and flea infestation in juveniles and adults and examining how these changes affect survival of fleas on their hosts. Body condition of food-restricted jirds deteriorated, but there was no change in their immunological variables. Adult jirds were in better body condition and had higher immunocompetence than juveniles, however there were no significant effects of flea infestation on any of the variables examined. The main effects of flea infestation were a decrease in the response to phytohaemagglutinin injection, and an increase in the negative effects of food restriction on body mass. Flea survival was higher on juveniles, but fleas did not respond to temporal variability in body condition and immunocompetence of the jirds. We concluded that changes in body condition and immune responses due to growth or variability in food abundance are more important than changes caused by the fleas themselves. Flea infestation is more detrimental to jirds when they are not able to compensate for mass loss through increased food consumption.

publication date

  • January 1, 2008