Temporal variation in parasite infestation of a host individual: does a parasite-free host remain uninfested permanently? Academic Article uri icon


  • Host individuals not infested by parasites at a given time are either permanently free from parasites or could be infested at other times. We studied temporal variation in the presence or absence of fleas (Siphonaptera) on individual rodents of two species (Gerbillus dasyurus and Acomys cahirinus) and questioned if and how an individual rodent can change its infestation status temporally. Change in infestation status by fleas over time was found in 45.5% of G. dasyurus and 35.9% of A. cahirinus. In both host species, the proportion of individuals that either changed or did not change their infestation status did not differ from the null expectation of 1:1. No difference between the proportions of infested at two consecutive captures and uninfested at two consecutive captures animals was found in A. cahirinus, whereas the proportion of G. dasyurus infested by fleas at two consecutive captures was significantly greater than that of uninfested at two consecutive captures individuals. In both host species, similar proportions of individuals changed their infestation status either from being infested to being uninfested or vice versa. Among individuals of both species that were initially infested by fleas, similar proportions changed and did not change their subsequent infestation status. The same was true for the uninfested at the first capture A. cahirinus. However, among initially uninfested G. dasyurus, the proportion of individuals that remained uninfested was significantly greater than that of the individuals newly infested by fleas. In A. cahirinus, the probability to change the infestation status did not depend on the initial status of an individual. In G. dasyurus, the probability of the initially uninfested individuals to be subsequently found still uninfested was higher than to be subsequently found harboring fleas, whereas initially infested individuals could be subsequently found either still infested or flea-free with equal probability.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006