Effects of parasite specificity and previous infestation of hosts on the feeding and reproductive success of rodent-infesting fleas

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19 Scopus citations


1. We examined whether identity of the rodent host and previous infestation of the host affect feeding and reproduction of fleas. We predicted that feeding and reproductive success of fleas would be higher when feeding on (i) a typical host than on an atypical host; and (ii) a pristine host than on a host previously exposed to parasitism. We also predicted that the negative effect of previous infestation would not be manifested in a host-specific flea feeding on its typical host. 2. To test these predictions, we measured blood meal size, egg production and latency of oviposition in host-specific Parapulex chephrenis and host-opportunistic Xenopsylla ramesis during seven daily feedings on the Egyptian spiny mouse Acomys cahirinus (typical host of the former) and Wagner's gerbil Dipodillus dasyurus (typical host of the latter). 3. Blood meal size in P. chephrenis did not depend on either host species or previous host infestation with fleas. However, when this flea fed on D. dasyurus as opposed to A. cahirinus, blood meal size increased to the end of 7-day period. Xenopsylla ramesis took larger blood meals (i) during the first feeding; (ii) from D. dasyurus than from A. cahirinus; and (iii) from pristine than from previously infested D. dasyurus, but the blood meals taken from pristine and previously infested A. cahirinus were similar. 4. Egg production of P. chephrenis was significantly higher and oviposition started earlier when it fed on A. cahirinus; this was true for X. ramesis when it fed on D. dasyurus. Surprisingly, P. chephrenis laid more eggs and started oviposition earlier when it fed on previously infested rodents. However, egg production in X. ramesis and start of oviposition were similar in pristine and previously infested hosts. 5. These results suggest that the response of a parasite to acquired immunity of a host may depend on the host species, level of parasite host specificity as well as the degree of 'tightness' of a particular parasite-host association.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-536
Number of pages7
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2008


  • Blood meal size
  • Egg production
  • Flea
  • Resistance
  • Rodent host

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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