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      Parasite infection and host group size: a meta-analytical review


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          Many studies have identified various host behavioural and ecological traits that are associated with parasite infection, including host gregariousness. By use of meta-analyses, we investigated to what degree parasite prevalence, intensity and species richness are correlated with group size in gregarious species. We predicted that larger groups would have more parasites and higher parasite species richness. We analysed a total of 70 correlations on parasite prevalence, intensity and species richness across different host group sizes. Parasite intensity and prevalence both increased positively with group size, as expected. No significant relationships were found between host group size and parasite species richness, suggesting that larger groups do not harbour more rare or novel parasite species than smaller groups. We further predicted that the mobility of the host (mobile, sedentary) and the mode of parasite transmission (direct, indirect, mobile) would be important predictors of the effects of group sizes on parasite infection. It was found that group size was positively correlated with the prevalence and intensity of directly and indirectly transmitted parasites. However, a negative relationship was observed between group size and mobile parasite intensity, with larger groups having lower parasite intensities. Further, intensities of parasites did not increase with group size of mobile hosts, suggesting that host mobility may negate parasite infection risk. The implications for the evolution and maintenance of sociality in host species are discussed, and future research directions are highlighted.

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          Most cited references12

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          Host-parasite 'Red Queen' dynamics archived in pond sediment.

          Antagonistic interactions between hosts and parasites are a key structuring force in natural populations, driving coevolution. However, direct empirical evidence of long-term host-parasite coevolution, in particular 'Red Queen' dynamics--in which antagonistic biotic interactions such as host-parasite interactions can lead to reciprocal evolutionary dynamics--is rare, and current data, although consistent with theories of antagonistic coevolution, do not reveal the temporal dynamics of the process. Dormant stages of both the water flea Daphnia and its microparasites are conserved in lake sediments, providing an archive of past gene pools. Here we use this fact to reconstruct rapid coevolutionary dynamics in a natural setting and show that the parasite rapidly adapts to its host over a period of only a few years. A coevolutionary model based on negative frequency-dependent selection, and designed to mimic essential aspects of our host-parasite system, corroborated these experimental results. In line with the idea of continuing host-parasite coevolution, temporal variation in parasite infectivity changed little over time. In contrast, from the moment the parasite was first found in the sediments, we observed a steady increase in virulence over time, associated with higher fitness of the parasite.
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            Heritable true fitness and bright birds: a role for parasites?

            Combination of seven surveys of blood parasites in North American passerines reveals weak, highly significant association over species between incidence of chronic blood infections (five genera of protozoa and one nematode) and striking display (three characters: male "brightness," female "brightness," and male song). This result conforms to a model of sexual selection in which (i) coadaptational cycles of host and parasites generate consistently positive offspring-on-parent regression of fitness, and (ii) animals choose mates for genetic disease resistance by scrutiny of characters whose full expression is dependent on health and vigor.
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              Hormonal and immunological mechanisms mediating sex differences in parasite infection.

              S L Klein (2004)
              The prevalence and intensity of infections caused by protozoa, nematodes, trematodes, cestodes, and arthropods is higher in males than females. The primary thesis of this review is that immunological differences exist between the sexes that may underlie increased parasitism in males compared to females. Several field and laboratory studies link sex differences in immune function with circulating steroid hormones; thus, the roles of sex steroids, including testosterone, oestradiol, and progesterone, as well as glucocorticoids will be discussed. Not only can host hormones affect responses to infection, but parasites can both produce and alter hormone concentrations in their hosts. The extent to which changes in endocrine-immune interactions following infection are mediated by the host or the parasite will be considered. Although males are more susceptible than females to many parasites, there are parasites for which males are more resistant than females and endocrine-immune interactions may underlie this sex reversal. Finally, although immunological differences exist between the sexes, genetic and behavioural differences may explain some variability in response to infection and will be explored as alternative hypotheses for how differences between the sexes contribute to dimorphic responses to parasites.

                Author and article information

                Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK )
                June 2013
                21 February 2013
                : 140
                : 7
                : 803-813
                [1]Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary , 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N1N4, Canada
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary , 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N1N4, Canada. E-mail: jesse.patterson@ 123456ucalgary.ca
                S0031182012002259 00225
                © Cambridge University Press 2013

                The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence < http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ > . The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

                : 05 November 2012
                : 09 December 2012
                : 13 December 2012
                Page count
                Tables: 4, References: 84, Pages: 11
                Review Article

                gregarious,group size,meta-analysis,parasite infection,parasite transmission,parasitism,species richness,sociality


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