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Sex differences in flea infections among rodent hosts: is there a male bias?

Kowalski, Krzysztof, Bogdziewicz, Michał, Eichert, Urszula, Rychlik, Leszek
Parasitology research 2015 v.114 no.1 pp. 337-341
Apodemus agrarius, Apodemus flavicollis, Clethrionomys glareolus, Siphonaptera, androgens, females, gender differences, hosts, humans, immunocompetence, males, niches, parasites, parasitism, parasitoses, risk, rodents, wildlife, zoonoses
Recognizing patterns of parasite distribution among wildlife hosts is of major importance due to growing risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Thus, sex-dependent parasite distribution in higher vertebrates is extensively studied, and males are often found more parasitized than females. Male-biased parasitism may be the result of weaker immunocompetence of male hosts owing to the immunosuppressive effect of androgens. Moreover, larger hosts (males) may demonstrate higher parasite infestation levels than smaller individuals (females), as they constitute a better nutritional resource for parasites and provide them with a greater variety of niches. In the present work, we investigated sex-dependent patterns of flea distribution among three common rodent species (Apodemus agrarius, Apodemus flavicollis, and Myodes glareolus). We hypothesized that males have a higher flea infestation than females. We confirm male-biased parasitism in A. agrarius and M. glareolus, but not in A. flavicollis. Additionally, flea infestation increased with body mass in A. agrarius, but not in A. flavicollis and M. glareolus. The detected differences in parasite distribution among sexes are probably the result of immunosuppressive effects of androgens and spatial behavior of males.