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Int J Parasitol. 2008 Jun;38(7):799-808. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.11.004. Epub 2007 Nov 22.

The life-history impact and implications of multiple parasites for bumble bee queens.

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Department of Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Most studies of the consequences of parasitism on fitness have examined single host-parasite systems. However, parasitological studies show that most hosts are constantly challenged by a complex parasite community. Thus, neither the response of hosts to individual parasite species nor the individual impact of these parasite species is likely to be as unconstrained as studies of single host-parasite systems might suggest. In this study, the parasite community structure in spring queens of the common European bumble bee, Bombus pratorum, was assessed. By capturing queens and allowing them to rear colonies in the laboratory, the relative impact of different parasite species on fitness across the annual host life-cycle could be examined. Of 160 queens, 67% were parasitised by one or more members of a five-species parasite community. The impact of parasites varied from being highly virulent to undetectable under benign laboratory conditions. The majority of multi-parasite infections involved a high impact parasite, which resulted in the removal of associated parasites from the host population. This study shows that, whilst multiple infections occur within individual hosts, most parasites act individually on their hosts. However, multiple parasite species in the host population may constrain the host population's ability to adapt to single parasite species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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