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Parasitology. 1996 Feb;112 ( Pt 2):213-9.

Gastrointestinal nematodes depress food intake in naturally infected reindeer.

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  • 1Department of Ecology/Zoology, University of Tromsø, Norway.


Models have predicted that directly transmitted macroparasites may influence the abundance of forage plants in herbivore grazing systems by reducing the food intake of their host. Evidence of parasite-induced alterations in host food intake is, however, limited mainly to sheep, cattle and laboratory rodents. We estimated the effect of naturally acquired parasite infections on the appetite of reindeer. Food intake was significantly lower in infected reindeer compared to animals in which the parasites had been experimentally removed. Among the infected animals there was a significant negative relationship between intensity of the directly transmitted macroparasites (i.e. gastrointestinal nematodes) and mean food intake, indicating that the lower food intake was caused by these parasites. The time-specific onset of depression in food intake is also consistent with seasonality in the pathogenic effect from gastrointestinal nematodes. This shows that parasite-induced changes in herbivore food intake is not restricted to agricultural systems, and implies that parasites may have impact on the dynamics of a wide range of herbivore plant communities.

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