Prevalence of haemosporidian parasites in bird populations varies temporally both between years and within a year. In contrast to variation at the population level, relatively little is known about variation in infection attributes at the individual level, especially in non-migratory species. We examined intra-individual changes in the presence and identity of haemosporidian parasites (genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) over the course of the nesting period in females of great tits (Parus major)—a species considered to be resident over much of its distribution range. Birds were sampled during two stages of the nesting period: nest building and nestling rearing. The mean time interval between sampling occasions was 43 days. Between the first and second samplings, 30.6% of females gained at least one parasite lineage and 18.5% lost the lineage. Haemoproteus gains were over three times more common than Plasmodium gains. The probability of the lineage gain decreased with the date of the first sampling, was higher in individuals in better body condition and differed between years, but was not associated with the host age. The probability of the lineage loss was not explained by any of the considered parameters except for year. These results indicate that in a large proportion of a population, infection attributes (presence/absence and/or parasite identity) may change over the nesting period and the occurrence of such changes may be associated with the individual quality. Consequently, this phenomenon should be taken into account to correctly interpret parasite-mediated effects.
Parasitology Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 1, 2017
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