Can we predict the success of a parasite to colonise an invasive host?

Luther van der Mescht, Irina S. Khokhlova, Elizabeth M. Warburton, Burt P. Kotler, Boris R. Krasnov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To understand whether a parasite can exploit a novel invasive host species, we measured reproductive performance (number of eggs per female per day, egg size, development rate and size of new imagoes) of fleas from the Negev desert in Israel (two host generalists, Synosternus cleopatrae and Xenopsylla ramesis, and a host specialist, Parapulex chephrenis) when they exploited either a local murid host (Gerbillus andersoni, Meriones crassus and Acomys cahirinus) or two alien hosts (North American heteromyids, Chaetodipus penicillatus and Dipodomys merriami). We asked whether (1) reproductive performance of a flea differs between an alien and a characteristic hosts and (2) this difference is greater in a host specialist than in host generalists. The three fleas performed poorly on alien hosts as compared to local hosts, but the pattern of performance differed both among fleas and within fleas between alien hosts. The response to alien hosts did not depend on the degree of host specificity of a flea. We conclude that successful parasite colonisation of an invasive host is determined by some physiological, immunological and/or behavioural compatibility between a host and a parasite. This compatibility is unique for each host-parasite association, so that the success of a parasite to colonise an invasive host is unpredictable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2305-2314
Number of pages10
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Biological invasion
  • Colonisation
  • Fleas
  • Heteromyidae
  • Muridae
  • Rodents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Veterinary (all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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