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Title: Macroparasite transmission and dynamics in Apodemus flavicollis
Author: Ferrari, Nicola
ISNI:       0000 0004 2683 2462
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis examines the parasite dynamics and the mechanisms affecting parasite load and transmission focalising on the role played by host and habitat heterogeneities. This study is based on the gastrointestinal nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus and the small mammal yellow necked mouse and uses data gathered from experimental field manipulations of parasites intensities and data gathered from trapping monitoring. Initially the parasite community of yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) was explored in North-Eastern Italian Alps with the aim to describe the major patterns and identify the factors affecting parasite community structure. Despite the observed spatial variability it has been found that differences within the host population such age and secondly sex and breeding conditions, were the major factors acting on parasite occurrence and intensity. Habitat differences had a less apparent effect on parasite community structure. The consequences of H. polygyrus infection on other parasite species infections have been analysed, in specific the infestation of the tick Ixodes ricinus in populations of A. flavicollis. H. polygyrus load and tick infestation were monitored as well as were carried out field manipulations of H. polygyrus intensity and were monitored changes in tick infestation. It has been found that H. polygyrus load was negatively related to I. ricinus infestations. Host factors mediated the H. polygyrus-I. ricinus interaction such that young and non-breeding mice exhibited higher I. ricinus to H. polygyrus intensity respect breeding adults. The role of host sex on parasite abundance was then investigated carrying out a field experiment where the H. polygyrus intensity were manipulated in relation to mice gender. In specific, H. polygyrus was removed alternately from either sexes and the parasite load was analysed in the untreated sex. It was found that males mice were responsible to drive parasite transmission in the host population and this was observed in absence of sex-bias in parasite infection, suggesting that this pattern was not a mere consequence of quantitative differences in parasite loads between sexes. To disentangle the possible mechanism causing this sex bias in parasite transmission mathematical simulations based on parameters obtained for the field experiment were used. Two non mutually exclusive hypotheses causing sex bias in parasite transmission were tested: a- males immune response is less efficient and this causes the development of more successful parasite infective stages or b-males behaviours allow them to be more efficient is spreading in more exposed areas parasite infective stages. Multi-host models were developed and simulations were compared with field results. While it was not disentangled the most dominant mechanism causing sex bias in parasite transmission this study underlined the importance of host sexes in affecting parasite dynamics and host-parasite interaction. In conclusion this thesis highlighted the importance of considering host and environmental differences when investigating host parasite interactions. This finding could be extremely important when planning measured of disease control or to avoid disease outbreak. Controlling target group of individuals host could avoid economical losses and a more effective measure of intervention.
Supervisor: Gilburn, Andre S. ; Cattadori, Isabella M. C. ; Hudson, Peter J. Sponsor: Centro di Ecologia Alpina ; Provincia Autonoma di Trento
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Yellow-necked Mouse ; Host-parasite Relationship ; Biology PhD Thesis ; Environmental Science PhD Thesis ; Apodemus flavicollis ; parasite community ; parasite heterogeneities ; mathematical models ; Alps ; parasite interactions ; Heligmosomoides polygyrus ; Ixodes ricinus