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From the host's point of view: Effects of variation in burying beetle brood care and brood size on the interaction with parasitic mites.


ABSTRACT: The fitness and virulence of parasites is often determined by how many resources they can wrangle out of their hosts. Host defenses that help to keep resources from the parasites will then reduce virulence and parasite fitness. Here, we study whether host brood care and brood size regulation can protect host fitness and harm a parasite. We use the biparental brood-caring burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides and its phoretic Poecilochirus carabi mites as a model. Since paternal brood care does not seem to benefit the offspring in a clean laboratory setting, the male presence has been suggested to strengthen the defense against parasites. We manipulated male presence and found no effect on the fitness of the parasitic mites or the beetle offspring. We further manipulated beetle brood size and found larger broods to reduce parasite fitness. The specific pattern we observed suggests that beetle larvae are strong competitors and consume the carrion resource before all parasites develop. They thus starve the parasites. These results shed new light on the observation that the parasites appear to reduce host brood size early on-potentially to avert later competition their offspring might have to face.

SUBMITTER: Schedwill P 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6974135 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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