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Testing the predictive adaptive response in a host-parasite system
1. Harsh environmental conditions experienced during development can reduce the performance of the same individuals in adulthood. However, the 'predictive adaptive response' hypothesis postulates that if individuals adapt their phenotype during development to the environments where they are likely to live in the future, individuals exposed to harsh conditions in early life perform better when encountering the same harsh conditions in adulthood compared to those never exposed to these conditions before. 2. Using the common vole (Microtus arvalis) as study organism, we tested how exposure to flea parasitism during the juvenile stage affects the physiology (haematocrit, resistance to oxidative stress, resting metabolism, spleen mass, and testosterone), morphology (body mass, testis mass) and motor performance (open field activity and swimming speed) of the same individuals when infested with fleas in adulthood. According to the 'predictive adaptive response' hypothesis, we predicted that voles parasitized at the adult stage would perform better if they had already been parasitized with fleas at the juvenile stage. 3. We found that voles exposed to fleas in adulthood had a higher metabolic rate if already exposed to fleas when juvenile, compared to voles free of fleas when juvenile and voles free of fleas in adulthood. Independently of juvenile parasitism, adult parasitism impaired adult haematocrit and motor performances. Independently of adult parasitism, juvenile parasitism slowed down crawling speed in adult female voles. 4. Our results suggest that juvenile parasitism has long-term effects that do not protect from the detrimental effects of adult parasitism. On the contrary, experiencing parasitism in early-life incurs additional costs upon adult parasitism measured in terms of higher energy expenditure, rather than inducing an adaptive shift in the developmental trajectory. 5. Hence, our study provides experimental evidence for long term costs of parasitism. We found no support for a predictive adaptive response in this host-parasite system.
developmental programming , induced response , long-term costs , mismatch , phenotypic plasticity
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