Patterns of nematode fecundity were investigated for infections of the caecal worm Heterakis gallinarum in the ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). Worm length was a good predictor of parasite fecundity. After controlling for worm length no other factors, including parasite intensity, were related to worm fecundity. Density dependence in worm size was detected in natural infections at parasite intensities above a threshold of 96 worms (worm size decreased with increasing parasite intensity). However, below this threshold, worm size actually decreased with decreasing parasite intensity (inverse density dependence). The interaction between density dependence and inverse density dependence in regulating the development and subsequent fecundity of H. gallinarum worms in ring-necked pheasants was demonstrated in an infection experiment. Density dependence was observed in the stunted growth of worms in heavily infected hosts, relative to worms in lightly infected hosts. Inverse density dependence in worm size was the common pattern across hosts by the end of the experiment, when parasite intensities were below the density dependence threshold. This is the first study to document both density dependence and inverse density dependence in parasite fecundity in the same host-helminth system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Infectious Diseases