Density-dependent regulation of fecundity in Syngamus trachea infrapopulations in semi-naturally occurring ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and wild Carrion Crows (Corvus corone)

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Gethings, O.J. ; Sage, R.B. ; Leather, S.R. (2016)

Previous work has highlighted increased opportunities for the transmission of Syngamus trachea within pheasant release pens, due in part to high levels of environmental contamination around communal areas. Despite this, the distribution of adult worms within their definitive hosts is not significantly different from predicted distributions under Taylor's power law. Therefore, density-dependent processes are probably acting to regulate S. trachea population dynamics. Patterns of nematode fecundity were investigated in a semi-naturally occurring population of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and a wild population of carrion crows (Corvus carone). Worm length was a reliable indicator of nematode fecundity, and a negative association between mean worm length and mean worm burden was identified within both the species. The stunting of worms at greater parasite densities was present in both immunologically naïve and previously exposed pheasants, so is unlikely to be a function of age-dependent acquired immunity. Interestingly, the effect of parasite crowding in the crow population explained more of the variation in mean worm length, apparently driven by a greater mean worm burden when compared with pheasants. The findings of the present study suggest that fecundity is a function of parasite density, i.e. parasite-mediated competition and not host-mediated heterogeneities in immunocompetence.
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