Effect of an ectoparasite on reproduction in great tits.


ID Serval
Article: article d'un périodique ou d'un magazine.
Effect of an ectoparasite on reproduction in great tits.
Journal of Animal Ecology
Richner H., Oppliger Anne, Christe P.
Statut éditorial
Date de publication
1. The effect of a haematophageous ectoparasite, the hen flea, on quality an number of offspring was experimentally investigated in the great tit. The experiment consisted of a controlled infestation of a random sample of nests with the parasitic flea and of a regular treatment of control nests with Microwaves in order to eliminate the naturally occurring fleas.
2. To assess the effects of fleas on variables related to offspring number, we considered the number of hatchlings and fledglings, the mortality between hatching and fledging, and the hatching and fledging success. For assessment of offspring quality, we measured body mass, tarsus and wing length, and calculated the nutritional condition of, nestlings as the ratio of body mass to tarsus length. A physiological variable, the haematocrit level, was also measured.
3. Hatching success and hatchling numbers did not differ between the two experimental groups. Offspring mortality between hatching and fledging was significantly higher in the infested broods (xBAR = 0.22 chicks dead per day) than in the parasite-free broods (xBAR = 0.07 dead per day). Fledging success was 83% in the parasite-free broods, but only 53% in the infested ones. The number of fledglings in infested broods (xBAR = 3.7 fledglings +/-2.1 SD) was significantly lower than in the parasite-free (xBAR = 4.9 +/- 1.1 SD) broods.
4. Body mass of chicks in the infested broods was significantly smaller than in the parasite-free broods both 14 days and 17 days after hatching. The chicks in the infested broods reached a significantly smaller tarsus length than the ones in the parasite-free broods. Close to fledging, the nutritional condition of chicks was significantly lower in infested broods. Haematocrit levels were significantly lower in the infested broods.
5. Brood size correlated differently with body mass and condition of chicks in infested and parasite-free nests. In parasite-free broods both body mass and condition of chicks at age 17 days, i.e. close to fledging, were significantly higher in small broods than in large ones. However, in the infested broods chicks were of the same body mass and condition in large as in small broods. Therefore, in parasite-free broods fitness can potentially be gained through offspring quality or number or both, whereas in infested broods it can be gained through offspring quantity only. In other words, a trade-off between quality and number of offspring is feasible only in the absence of the parasitic hen flea.
6. These results emphasize the need to study the effects of ectoparasites on ecological, behavioural and evolutionary traits of their bird hosts. A knowledge of these effects is essential for the understanding of population dynamics, behaviour and life-history traits of the hosts.
ectoparasites, great tit, nestling growth, mortality, offspring quality vs. number
Web of science
Création de la notice
24/01/2008 20:14
Dernière modification de la notice
20/08/2019 17:02
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