Does a bacterial infection lead to a nutritional deficiency in foraging Allenby’s gerbils?

Douglas Ferguson Makin, Burt P. Kotler, Franklin Sargunaraj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Bacterial infections can have both direct (physiological) and indirect (ecological) costs for their hosts. The direct costs of infection may include nutritional deficiencies, which reduce body condition over time, and result in the hosts modifying their foraging behaviour to compensate for any losses. Allenby’s gerbils are commonly infected with the Mycoplasma haemomuris-like bacteria, which may induce choline (essential vitamin) and arginine (amino acid) deficiencies. Gerbils should therefore alter their behaviour to make up for any shortfalls in nutrient production and retention. We tested two predictions. 1) infected gerbils would compensate for nutrient losses by spending more time foraging in patches, including, during riskier periods of owl presence, and in riskier open microhabitats. Furthermore, infected gerbils would preferentially forage from patches supplemented with choline and arginine enriched food over control food. 2) Alternatively, if infection did not create a nutrient deficiency, then infected individuals would display a similar pattern of patch use to uninfected individuals, and harvest similar amounts of food from supplemented and control patches. Our findings supported the second prediction. There was no observed difference in foraging behaviour between infected and uninfected individuals. Moreover, infected gerbils did not selectively forage more intensively from food patches enriched with either choline or arginine seed over the control patches. These results suggest that this bacteria-gerbil interaction does not result in a nutrient deficiency as observed for other Mycoplasma-rodent systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Arginine
  • Bacterial infections
  • Choline
  • Gerbils
  • GUDs
  • Nutrient deficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Does a bacterial infection lead to a nutritional deficiency in foraging Allenby’s gerbils?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this