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Host–parasite interactions and vectors in the barn swallow in relation to climate change


A. P. Møller, tel. +33 1 69 15 56 88, fax +33 1 69 15 56 96, e-mail:


Recent climate change has affected the phenology of numerous species, and such differential changes may affect host–parasite interactions. Using information on vectors (louseflies, mosquitoes, blackflies) and parasites (tropical fowl mite Ornithonyssus bursa, the lousefly Ornithomyia avicularia, a chewing louse Brueelia sp., two species of feather mites Trouessartia crucifera and Trouessartia appendiculata, and two species of blood parasites Leucozytozoon whitworthi and Haemoproteus prognei) of the barn swallow Hirundo rustica collected during 1971–2008, I analyzed temporal changes in emergence and abundance, relationships with climatic conditions, and changes in the fitness impact of parasites on their hosts. Temperature and rainfall during the summer breeding season of the host increased during the study. The intensity of infestation by mites decreased, but increased for the lousefly during 1982–2008. The prevalence of two species of blood parasites increased during 1988–2008. The timing of first mass emergence of mosquitoes and blackflies advanced. These temporal changes in phenology and abundance of parasites and vectors could be linked to changes in temperature, but less so to changes in precipitation. Parasites had fitness consequences for hosts because intensity of the mite and the chewing louse was significantly associated with delayed breeding of the host, while a greater abundance of feather mites was associated with earlier breeding. Reproductive success of the host decreased with increasing abundance of the chewing louse. The temporal decrease in mite abundance was associated with advanced breeding of the host, while the increase in abundance of the lousefly was associated with earlier breeding. Virulence by the tropical fowl mite decreased with increasing temperature, independent of confounding factors. These findings suggest that climate change affects parasite species differently, hence altering the composition of the parasite community, and that climate change causes changes in the virulence of parasites. Because the changing phenology of different species of parasites had both positive and negative effects on their hosts, and because the abundance of some parasites increased, while that of other decreased, there was no consistent temporal change in host fitness during 1971–2008.