Spatial variation in gender-biased parasitism: host-related, parasite-related and environment-related effects. Academic Article uri icon


  • The gender-biased pattern of parasite infestation has been shown to be a complicated phenomenon that cannot be explained by a single mechanism but rather involves several different mechanisms. We asked what are the factors that affect the manifestation and extent of gender-biased parasitism and studied the relationship between parasite-related (mean abundance, mean species richness and total species richness of all parasites), host-related (rodent density and proportion of reproductive males and females both separately and together) and environment-related (mean daily maximal and minimal temperatures, rainfall and relative humidity) factors and the magnitude of gender-biased infestation of a South African rodent Rhabdomys pumilio by ixodid ticks, gamasid mites, lice and fleas. We found that spatial variation in gender differences in parasite infestation was affected by parasite-, host- and environment-related factors, although the set of factors affecting gender differences in infestation differed among higher taxa of ectoparasites. Gender differences in infestation by fleas and lice were affected mainly by parasite-related factors, whereas gender differences in infestation by ticks and, in part, by mites were affected mainly by host-related and environmental factors. In addition, spatial variation in most measures of gender difference in mite infestation remained unexplained.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010