Field evidence for apparent competition mediated via the shared parasites of two gamebird species


D.M. Tompkins E-mail:


Although apparent competition mediated via shared parasites is potentially an important force influencing community structure, there is limited evidence to demonstrate its occurrence in the field. Here we show that the intensity of infection by the caecal nematode Heterakis gallinarum picked up by naive grey partridges, both maintained in pens and released on six gamebird estates in the UK, is significantly correlated with the intensity of infection recorded in the previous year from pheasants on those estates. Furthermore, the worm burdens picked up appeared to be sufficient to negatively influence host condition. These results provide evidence that infection from pheasants determines the worm burdens of partridges in the field, supporting the hypothesis that parasite-mediated apparent competition with the pheasant may be a factor influencing the decline and subsequent recovery of wild grey partridges.