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Variation in intensity of a parasitic mite (Spinturnix myoti) in relation to the reproductive cycle and immunocompetence of its bat host (Myotis myotis)

Authors

  • Christe,

    1. Institut d’Ecologie – Laboratoire de Zoologie et Ecologie Animale, Bâtiment de Biologie, Universitè de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Suisse
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  • Arlettaz,

    1. Institut d’Ecologie – Laboratoire de Zoologie et Ecologie Animale, Bâtiment de Biologie, Universitè de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Suisse
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  • Vogel

    1. Institut d’Ecologie – Laboratoire de Zoologie et Ecologie Animale, Bâtiment de Biologie, Universitè de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Suisse
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Philippe Christe Institut d’Ecologie – Laboratoire de Zoologie et Ecologie Animale, Bâtiment de Biologie, Universitè de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Suisse.E-mail: philippe.christe@ie-zea.unil.ch

Abstract

Given the intimate association in host–parasite systems, parasites are expected to initiate their own reproduction when vulnerable hosts become abundant and/or when adult hosts are less resistant. In this study, we examined the variation in the intensities of a blood-sucking mite (Spinturnix myoti, Acarina) with respect to the reproductive cycle and immunocompetence of its host, the greater mouse-eared bat Myotis myotis. Reproductive, pregnant females were less immunocompetent and harboured more parasites than nonreproductive females, whilst, during lactation, immunocompetence was positively associated with female body mass. There was a dramatic increase in the T-cell response of gravid females with the advancement of gestation, which coincided with a diminution of individual parasite loads and a progressive switch of parasites from adults to juveniles. The latter not only harboured greater numbers of mites than adult female bats, but they also exhibited gravid parasites in higher proportions, indicating that juvenile hosts are more attractive for parasite reproduction than adult females.

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