The role of shared parasites in the exclusion of wildlife hosts: Heterakis gallinarum in the ring-necked pheasant and the grey partridge


Dr Daniel M. Tompkins, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK,, Tel.: 01786 467812, Fax: 01786 464994


1. A two-host shared-macroparasite model was parameterized from the results of infection and transmission experiments, to investigate whether apparent competition between the ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and the grey partridge (Perdix perdix), mediated via the shared nematode Heterakis gallinarum, could theoretically cause partridge exclusion.

2. Both the model created and the experiments conducted show that the bulk of H. gallinarum infection to partridges, when they occur in the same locations as pheasants, will be from the pheasants and not from the partridges themselves. This is due to R0 for the parasite being 1·23 when infecting pheasants, but only 0·0057 when infecting partridges. Thus, when the pheasant is present in the model the partridge population is impacted by the shared parasite but, when the pheasant is absent, the parasite is lost from the system.

3. Based on best available parameter estimates, the observed impact of H. gallinarum on the grey partridge may be sufficient to cause exclusion when the pheasant is present in the model. This supports the hypothesis that the UK grey partridge decline observed over the past 50 years may be partly due to apparent competition with pheasants.

4. Habitat separation between the two host species, where it decreases the rate of H. gallinarum transmission from the pheasant to the partridge, may allow them to co-exist in the field in the presence of the parasite. We predict, however, that grey partridge exclusion would still occur if separation was less than 43%.