The migration of infective nematode larvae into the tissues of their hosts has been proposed as a mechanism of reducing larval mortality and increase parasite lifetime reproductive success. Given that individual hosts differ in the level of exposure, strength of immune response and physiological conditions we may expect the number of larvae in tissue to vary both between and within hosts. We used 2 gastrointestinal nematode species common in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and examined how the number of larvae in the tissue changed with the immune response, parasite intensity-dependent constraints in the lumen and seasonal weather factors, in rabbits of different age, sex and breeding status. For both nematode species, larvae from the gastrointestinal tissue exhibited strong seasonal and host age-related patterns with fewer larvae recovered in summer compared to winter and more in adults than in juveniles. The number of larvae of the 2 nematodes was positively associated with intensity of parasite infection in the lumen and antibody responses while it was negatively related with air temperature and rainfall. Host sex, reproductive status and co-infection with the second parasite species contributed to increase variability between hosts. We concluded that heterogeneities in host conditions are a significant cause of variability of larval abundance in the gastrointestinal tissues. These findings can have important consequences for the dynamics of nematode infections and how parasite's life-history strategies adjust to host changes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Infectious Diseases