Sex-dependent changes in the louse abundance of red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus)

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2020
Authors:I. Sándor Piross, Solt, S., Horváth, É., Kotymán, L., Palatitz, P., Bertók, P., Szabó, K., Vili, N., Vas, Z., Rózsa, L., Harnos, A., Fehérvári, P.
Journal:Parasitology Research
Pagination:1327 - 1335
Date Published:Jan-04-2020
Keywords:ecology, ectoparasite, Sex-biased infestation, Vertical transmission

Permanent ectoparasites live in stable environments; thus, their population dynamics are mostly adapted to changes in the host life cycle. We aimed to investigate how static and dynamic traits of red-footed falcons interplay with the dynamics of their louse subpopulations during breeding and how they affect the colonisation of new hosts by lice. We sampled red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) nestlings (two breeding seasons) and adults (one breeding season) in southern Hungary. The mean abundance of Colpocephalum subzerafae and Degeeriella rufa lice on the nestlings was modelled with generalized linear mixed models using clutch size and host sex in interaction with wing length. For adults, we used wing length and the number of days after laying the first egg, both in interaction with sex. D. rufa abundances increased with the nestlings’ wing length. In one year, this trend was steeper on females. In adult birds, both louse species exhibited higher abundances on females at the beginning, but it decreased subsequently through the breeding season. Contrarily, abundances were constantly low on adult males. Apparently, D. rufa postpones transmission until nestlings develop juvenile plumage and choose the more feathered individual among siblings. The sexual difference in the observed abundance could either be caused by the different plumage, or by the females’ preference for less parasitized males. Moreover, females likely have more time to preen during the incubation period, lowering their louse burdens. Thus, sex-biased infestation levels likely arise due to parasite preferences in the nestlings and host behavioural processes in the adult falcons.

Short Title:Parasitol Res
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