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Parasitology. 2007 May;134(Pt 5):705-11. Epub 2007 Jan 19.

Numerical response of a helminth community in the course of a multi-annual abundance cycle of the water vole (Arvicola terrestris).

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  • 1Centre de Biologie et Gestion des Populations, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, CS 30016 Montferrier sur Lez, 34988 Saint Gély du Fesc, France.


The impact of parasitism on population dynamics is determined in part by the numerical responses of parasites during population fluctuations of their hosts. Vole populations fluctuate in multi-annual cycles allowing such responses to be studied over successive phases of population growth, abundance and decline. We investigate how a helminth community (5 nematode and 7 cestode species) evolved over a full 6-year Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) population cycle. Brillouin and individual parasite species richness (IPSR) indices were used to measure the numerical response of the parasite community. We report a correlation between levels of parasite intensity and vole population cycle phases. Both indices were consistently higher during pre-decline and decline phases for male and female voles alike. The numerical response of the parasite community suggests that populations may be regulated by parasitism and that studies of this mechanism should allow both for the cyclic or non-cyclic character of the host populations and for the response of the broadest possible set of the local parasite community.

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