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Int J Parasitol. 2001 Sep;31(11):1187-93.

Physiological and haematological consequences of a novel parasite on the red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica.

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  • 1Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain.


Parasite virulence has been hypothesised to increase with the degree of host sociality because highly social hosts have a greater probability of encountering horizontal transmission of parasites and experiencing infections with multiple strains of the same parasites than do solitary hosts. As compared with the defences of closely related social host species, we predicted that solitary hosts should have relatively weak defences against parasites, thus being relatively more affected when parasitised by a novel parasite. We tested this prediction by either experimentally infesting 12 nests of the solitarily nesting red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica with 50 individuals of the generalist martin bug Oeciacus hirundinis or by fumigation of nine nests. Nestlings 13 days old from the parasite addition group experienced increased mortality, attained lower body mass and tended to have shorter tarsi compared to nestlings from fumigated nests. Surprisingly, nestlings from the parasite addition group had higher packed cell volume (cellular fraction of blood) and lower levels of heat shock proteins (HSP60) than nestlings from the fumigation group. A measure of immunocompetence was not significantly affected by treatment, but its magnitude was positively related to packed cell volume and negatively related to level of HSP60. Solitary hosts like the red-rumped swallow have weak immune responses and low levels of heat shock proteins when infested with ectoparasites while highly social hosts have strong immune responses and high levels of heat shock proteins when infested. These findings partially support the hypothesis that potential host species with weak defences are more susceptible to infection and the deleterious effects of evolving parasites than potential hosts with strong defences.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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