The role of host sex in parasite dynamics: field experiments on the yellow-necked mouse Apodemus flavicollis




We investigated the role of host sex in parasite transmission and questioned: ‘Is host sex important in influencing the dynamics of infection in free living animal populations?’ We experimentally reduced the helminth community of either males or females in a yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) population using an anthelmintic, in replicated trapping areas, and subsequently monitored the prevalence and intensity of macroparasites in the untreated sex. We focussed on the dominant parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus and found that reducing parasites in males caused a consistent reduction of parasitic intensity in females, estimated through faecal egg counts, but the removal of parasites in females had no significant influence on the parasites in males. This finding suggests that males are responsible for driving the parasite infection in the host population and females may play a relatively trivial role. The possible mechanisms promoting such patterns are discussed.