Faculté des sciences

A flea-induced pre-hatching maternal effect modulates tick feeding behaviour on great tit nestlings

Gallizzi, K. ; Gern, Lise ; Richner, H.

In: Functional Ecology, 2008, vol. 22, no. 1, p. 94-99

1. A host's defence reaction against one parasite species can modulate the habitat quality for other parasites in two ways: it can provide cross-resistance against closely related species due to antigenic similarity, or it can reduce resistance to other cohabiting species, since the mounting of multiple defence reactions is more costly. 2. Here we test whether two completely... Plus

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    Summary
    1. A host's defence reaction against one parasite species can modulate the habitat quality for other parasites in two ways: it can provide cross-resistance against closely related species due to antigenic similarity, or it can reduce resistance to other cohabiting species, since the mounting of multiple defence reactions is more costly.
    2. Here we test whether two completely unrelated parasite species can influence each other across host generations, that is, whether a hen flea-induced maternal effect known to protect great tit (Parus major) nestlings against flea infestations will also alter tick (Ixodes ricinus) feeding behaviour on nestlings.
    3. We infested experimental great tit nests with hen fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) prior to egg-laying to induce the maternal effect, while all parasites were removed in control nests. Nestlings from the two types of nests were then cross-fostered into flea-free foster nests to produce broods that contained both, nestlings with and without the flea-induced maternal effect. Five days after hatching, we put five larval ticks on each nestling and assessed tick feeding behaviour.
    4. We found that ticks feeding on nestlings with the flea-induced maternal effect detached significantly earlier than ticks feeding on controls. The result is compatible with the hypothesis of a trans-generational parasite–parasite interaction, that is, it suggests that the flea-induced maternal effect alters tick feeding behaviour and that it may protect nestlings against tick-borne diseases by reducing tick attachment times. In addition, we found that more ticks attached on male than on female nestlings, suggesting that males are more susceptible to parasites than females as shown in other vertebrates.