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Impact of host sex and group composition on parasite dynamics in experimental populations
- TADIRI, C. P., SCOTT, M. E., FUSSMANN, G. F.
- Parasitology 2016 v.143 no.4 pp. 523-531
- females, fish, group size, hosts, males, models, parasite load, parasites
- To better understand the spread of disease in nature, it is fundamentally important to have broadly applicable model systems with readily available species which can be replicated and controlled in the laboratory. Here we used an experimental model system of fish hosts and monogenean parasites to determine whether host sex, group size and group composition (single-sex or mixed-sex) influenced host-parasite dynamics at an individual and group level. Parasite populations reached higher densities and persisted longer in groups of fish compared with isolated hosts and reached higher densities on isolated females than on isolated males. However, individual fish within groups had similar burdens to isolated males regardless of sex, indicating that females may benefit more than males by being in a group. Relative condition was positively associated with high parasite loads for isolated males, but not for isolated females or grouped fish. No difference in parasite dynamics between mixed-sex groups and single-sex groups was detected. Overall, these findings suggest that while host sex influences dynamics on isolated fish, individual fish in groups have similar parasite burdens, regardless of sex. We believe our experimental results contribute to a mechanistic understanding of host-parasite dynamics, although we are cautious about directly extrapolating these results to other systems.