Does elevated testosterone result in increased exposure and transmission of parasites?
Article first published online: 8 APR 2009
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS
Volume 12, Issue 6, pages 528–537, June 2009
How to Cite
Grear, D. A., Perkins, S. E. and Hudson, P. J. (2009), Does elevated testosterone result in increased exposure and transmission of parasites?. Ecology Letters, 12: 528–537. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01306.x
- Issue published online: 15 MAY 2009
- Article first published online: 8 APR 2009
- Editor, Minus van Baalen Manuscript received 8 January 2009 First decision made 3 February 2009 Manuscript accepted 27 February 2009
- Contact rates;
- Peromyscus leucopus;
- sex-biased transmission;
- social network;
Male-biased infection is a common phenomenon in vertebrate-parasite systems and male-biased transmission has been experimentally demonstrated. One mechanism that is hypothesized to create male-biased transmission is the immuno-suppressive effect of testosterone because it increases susceptibility to infection. Testosterone also influences host behaviour and, consequently, may increase exposure to parasites. To test how testosterone could increase exposure and transmission, we undertook a longitudinal mark-recapture study where we experimentally elevated testosterone levels in wild male rodents. Individuals in control populations reduced the average number of contacts over the treatment period, while populations with experimentally elevated testosterone levels maintained the number of contacts between hosts. As a result, the transmission potential was higher in testosterone treated populations compared to controls. Our results indicated that males with high-testosterone levels alter the population-level contacts, producing different social networks and increasing transmission potential compared to those where testosterone is at background levels.