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Parasite abundance contributes to condition-dependent dispersal in a wild population of large herbivore

Abstract : Parasite abundance has been shown to have major consequences for host fitness components such as survival and reproduction. However, although natal dispersal is a key life history trait, whether an individual's decision to disperse or not is influenced by the abundance of parasites it carries remains mostly unknown. Current and opposing hypotheses suggest that infected individuals should either be philopatric to avoid the energetic costs of dispersal (condition dependence) or disperse to escape from heavily parasitised habitats. From intensive monitoring of a roe deer population inhabiting a multi-use and spatially heterogeneous agricultural landscape, we evaluated the link between an individual's parasite abundance and its propensity to disperse, while accounting for confounding effects of body mass. Dispersal propensity generally decreased with both increasing nematode abundance and with decreasing body mass. Within the dispersing segment of the population, individuals with high nematode abundance left their natal home range later in the season than less parasitised deer. These results clearly show that parasite abundance is an important component of condition-dependent dispersal in large herbivores. However, unexpectedly, three individuals that were both heavily parasitised and of low body mass dispersed. We suggest that this 'leave it ' response to high parasite levels in the natal habitat could represent a last ditch attempt to improve reproductive prospects, constituting a form of emergency life history strategy.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 12:45:16 PM
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Lucie Debeffe, Nicolas Morellet, Hélène Verheyden, Herve Hoste, Jean-Michel Gaillard, et al.. Parasite abundance contributes to condition-dependent dispersal in a wild population of large herbivore. Oikos, Nordic Ecological Society, 2014, 123 (9), pp.1121 - 1125. ⟨10.1111/oik.01396⟩. ⟨hal-02633380⟩



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