Effects of host diet and thermal state on feeding performance of the flea Xenopsylla ramesis

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5 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined feeding performance of the flea Xenopsylla ramesis on three different hosts: its natural, granivorous, rodent host, Sundevall's jird (Meriones crassus); the frugivorous Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus); and an insectivorous bat, Kuhl's pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii). Because these fleas are not known to occur on bats, we hypothesized that the fleas' feeding performance (i.e. feeding and digestion rates) would be higher when feeding on their natural host than on either of the bats that they do not naturally parasitize. We found that mass-specific blood-meal size of both male and female fleas was significantly lower when feeding on Kuhl's pipistrelles than on the other two species, but was not different in female fleas feeding on fruit bats or on jirds at all stages of digestion. However, more male fleas achieved higher levels of engorgement if they fed on Sundevall's jirds than if they fed on Egyptian fruit bats. The fleas digested blood of fruit bats and jirds significantly faster than blood of Kuhl's pipistrelle. In addition, after a single blood meal, the survival time of fleas fed on normothermic Kuhl's pipistrelles was significantly shorter than that of fleas fed on Sundevall's jirds and even lower when male fleas fed on Egyptian fruit bats. Thus, our prediction was partially supported: normothermic Kuhl's pipistrelles were inferior hosts for fleas compared with Sandevall's jirds and Egyptian fruit bats. Interestingly, the proportion of engorged fleas that fed on torpid Kuhl's pipistrelles was significantly higher than the proportion of the fleas that fed on normothermic individuals, indicating that becoming torpid might be a liability, rather than an effective defense against parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1435-1441
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume215
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2012

Keywords

  • Bat
  • Blood meal
  • Diet
  • Digestion
  • Flea
  • Herbivory
  • Rodent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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