Mountain hare Lepus timidus populations show unstable dynamics and since hares carry a significant helminth infection and host-parasite interactions are known to be destabilising, they have been proposed as a possible causal mechanism for the observed instability. We assessed the prevalence, intensity of infection and aggregation of the helminth parasites Graphidium strigosum and Trichostrongylus retortaeformis recovered from 589 mountain hares culled from 30 Scottish sporting estates in 1999 and 2000. Graphidium strigosum showed low prevalence and intensity of infection and was highly aggregated. In contrast, T. retortaeformis showed high prevalence and intensity of infection and a low degree of aggregation. Differences in body condition of the hares were best explained by a model including sex and month of collection and interaction terms for sex-month and intensity of infection of T. retortaeformis-month. The low degree of aggregation of T. retortaeformis and the significant negative effect of intensity of infection on body condition are in accordance with the hypothesis that the host-parasite interaction is the causative destabilising mechanism for mountain hare dynamics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases