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Host age, sex, and reproductive seasonality affect nematode parasitism in wild Japanese macaques.

MacIntosh, AJJ, Hernandez AD, Huffman MA

Primates 51:353-364

 Parasites are characteristically aggregated within hosts, but identifying the mechanisms underlying such aggregation can be difficult in wildlife populations. I examined the influence of host age and sex over an annual cycle on the fecal egg output (EPG) of nematode parasites infecting wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui) on Yakushima Island. Five species of nematode were recorded from 434 fecal samples collected from 50 individuals in an age-structured group of individually recognizable macaques. All parasites exhibited aggregated EPG distributions. The age-infection profiles of all three directly transmitted species (Oesophagostomum aculeatum, Strongyloides fuelleborni, and Trichuris trichiura) exhibited convex curves, but concavity better characterized the age-infection curves of the two trophically transmitted species (Streptopharagus pigmentatus and Gongylonema pulchrum). There was a male bias in EPG and prevalence of infection with directly transmitted species, except in the prevalence of O. aculeatum, and no sex bias in the other parasites. Infection with O. aculeatum showed a female bias in prevalence among young adults, and additional interactions with sex and seasonality show higher EPG values in males during the mating season (fall) but in females during the birth season (spring). These patterns suggest that an immunosuppressive role by reproductive hormones may be regulating direct, but not indirect life cycle parasites. Exposure at an early age may trigger an immune response that affects all nematodes, but trophically transmitted species appear to accumulate thereafter. Although it is difficult to discern clear mechanistic explanations for parasite distributions in wildlife populations, it is critical to begin examining these patterns in host species that are increasingly endangered by anthropogenic threats.

SEP/30/2010

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