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Parasitology. 1994;109 Suppl:S139-51.

Behavioural defense against parasites: interaction with parasite invasiveness.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis.


Behavioural patterns involved in avoiding, repelling, or removing parasites allow mammalian hosts to defend themselves from an array of parasites that threaten the host's fitness in the natural world. Some examples of behavioural defenses and the presumed target parasites are: grooming to remove ticks, grouping to reduce attack rate of biting flies, fly repelling movements to reduce parasitic flies, and selective grazing to reduce intake of faecal-borne parasites. These behavioural defenses are discussed with regard to effectiveness in controlling the target parasites. Parasites have sometimes evolved behavioural strategies of evading, penetrating or disabling these behavioural defenses. These parasite behavioural strategies, though less studied, are discussed. Also discussed is the possibility that host behavioural patterns that may defend against one parasite may be exploited by a different type of parasite to facilitate its own transmission. The interplay between host defensive strategies, the cost versus the effectiveness of such strategies, and a parasite's evasion or exploitation of such strategies, may be useful in understanding some aspects of host-parasite dynamics in nature.

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