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Keywords:

  • Abundance;
  • fleas;
  • ixodid ticks;
  • probability of infestation;
  • small mammals;
  • species richness

1. We studied the effect of flea infestation on the pattern of tick (Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes trianguliceps) infestation on small mammals.

2. We asked (1) whether the probability of an individual host being infested by ticks was affected by its infestation of fleas (number of individuals and species) and (2) whether the abundance and prevalence of ticks in a host population was affected by the abundance, prevalence, level of aggregation, and species richness of fleas.

3. The probability of a host individual being infested by ticks was affected negatively by flea infestation. At the level of host populations, flea abundance and prevalence had a predominantly positive effect on tick infestation, whereas flea species richness had a negative effect on tick infestation.

4. The effect of flea infestation on tick infestation was generally greater in I. ricinus than in I. trianguliceps, but varied among host species.

5. It can be concluded that the effect of fleas on tick infestation of small mammals may be either negative or positive depending on the level of consideration and parameters involved. The results did not provide support for direct interactions between the two ectoparasite taxa, but suggested population and community dynamics and the defence system of the hosts as possible factors.