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Sex and age-biased nematode prevalence in reptiles

Brown, David Steven and Symondson, William Oliver Christian 2014. Sex and age-biased nematode prevalence in reptiles. Molecular Ecology 23 (15) , pp. 3890-3899. 10.1111/mec.12688

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Prevalence and intensity of parasitic infections are often higher in male than in female vertebrates. This bias may represent either differences between host sex in exposure or susceptibility to parasites. The former may be due to sex-specific behaviour of the host, including differential habitat use or diet. Differences in susceptibility are often regarded as a negative effect of male sex steroid hormones on the immune system. Host–parasite dynamics are of great interest in terms of reptile survival, ecology and conservation. We used, for the first time, molecular diagnostics to track nematode parasitism in wild populations of reptiles noninvasively. Using slow worms (Anguis fragilis) as a model species, we investigated the interacting effects of time of year, sex, length, weight and climatic variables on the prevalence of the gastroenterological parasitic nematode Neoxysomatium brevicaudatum. Faeces were collected from three sites over 2 years. There was an interaction between sex and time of year, with lower nematode prevalence in males than in females in July or August (different between years) but a high prevalence in males in April. As the latter is during the slow worm breeding season, this may be the result of testosterone-induced immunosuppression. A second-order interaction between slow worm length and weight was found to be significant, with a positive association between prevalence and body condition in young slow worms and a negative association in older slow worms. The convex pattern of nematode prevalence with age that emerged suggests an increase with age-related exposure and a decrease with age-related acquired immunity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Additional Information: First published: 21 March 2014 Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 29/03/2016)
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
ISSN: 0962-1083
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2019 06:06

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