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The energetic cost of parasitism in a wild population.

ABSTRACT: Parasites have profound fitness effects on their hosts, yet these are often sub-lethal, making them difficult to understand and quantify. A principal sub-lethal mechanism that reduces fitness is parasite-induced increase in energetic costs of specific behaviours, potentially resulting in changes to time and energy budgets. However, quantifying the influence of parasites on these costs has not been undertaken in free-living animals. We used accelerometers to estimate energy expenditure on flying, diving and resting, in relation to a natural gradient of endo-parasite loads in a wild population of European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis We found that flight costs were 10% higher in adult females with higher parasite loads and these individuals spent 44% less time flying than females with lower parasite loads. There was no evidence for an effect of parasite load on daily energy expenditure, suggesting the existence of an energy ceiling, with the increase in cost of flight compensated for by a reduction in flight duration. These behaviour specific costs of parasitism will have knock-on effects on reproductive success, if constraints on foraging behaviour detrimentally affect provisioning of young. The findings emphasize the importance of natural parasite loads in shaping the ecology and life-history of their hosts, which can have significant population level consequences.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5998108 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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