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Animal movement and parasite distribution

Patterns of parasite prevalence and distribution have attracted interest during the last years, although such analyses have almost exclusively dealt with comparing populations over a wide geographic region. Analyses of parasite distribution on a smaller spatial scale have on the other hand just started

Yet, the few studies on this topic have shown pronounced spatial variation in parasite prevalence also within host populations. This could potentially be important as it could shape dispersal strategies; local areas with high parasite prevalence should be avoided during natal dispersal and might constitute an important decision rule for establishment, at least for early settlers. Moreover, host dispersal might be an important factor influencing the distribution of parasites.

The aim of this project is to study (1) the influence of host movements on disease transmission and host-parasite interaction and (2) how the risk of being infected shape dispersal strategies.

Distribution of parasites among blue tits

Blue tit singing
Photo: Johan Nilsson

Our preliminary results show that movements within populations of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) at the Revinge area indeed affect the distribution of an avian blood parasite (Haemoproteus majoris).

During six years (1997-2002) of population estimates of prevalence among blue tits, we found a negative relation between prevalence and the proportion of new birds (previously unringed) in the population (Stjernman et al unpubl.).

This indicates that areas surrounding our main study site at Revinge, may contain blue tits far less infected and that dispersal has a strong effect on the distribution of parasites and the risk of getting infected.
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Jan-Åke Nilsson
Lars Råberg
Martin Stjernman
Johan Nilsson
Andreas Nord
Sandra Sköld-Chiriac

 

Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden