Main content area

Are sexes equally parasitized in damselflies and dragonflies?

Ilvonen, Jaakko J., Kaunisto, Kari M., Suhonen, Jukka
Oikos 2016 v.125 no.3 pp. 315-325
Odonata, ectoparasites, endoparasites, evolution, females, gregarines, hosts, insects, males, parasitism, water mites
Parasitism plays an essential part in ecology and evolution of host species and understanding the reasons for differential parasitism within and among hosts species is therefore important. Among the very important factors potentially affecting parasitism is the gender of the host. Here, we studied whether either females or males are more likely to harbour parasites among Odonatan insects, by relying on an extensive literature review and new field data. We collected data on numerous dragonfly and damselfly species and their ectoparasites (water mites) and endoparasites (gregarines) to examine the generality of similarities and differences in prevalence, intensity and maximum number of parasites of male and female hosts. We found three main results. Firstly, most of the odonate host species showed no differences between sexes in either gregarine or water mite prevalence and intensity. The only exception was female damselflies’ higher gregarine prevalence and intensity compared to conspecific males. These inequalities in gregarine parasitism may be due to behavioral and physiological differences between conspecific males and females. In comparison, there were no differences in dragonflies between sexes in water mite or gregarine prevalence and intensity. Secondly, damselflies had higher prevalence and intensity levels of both gregarine and water mite parasites compared to dragonflies. Finally, we found a strong species level pattern between female and male parasitism: a certain level of gregarine or water mite parasitism in one sex was matched with a similar parasitism level for the other. This indicates similar exposure and susceptibility to parasites on both sexes. Even though significant differences of parasite levels between the sexes were observed within certain host species, our results strongly suggest that on a general level a more parasitized sex does not exist in the order, Odonata.