understanding the role of diet in host-parasite interactions: the case for
MacIntosh AJJ, Huffman MA
The Japanese macaques. In:
Nakagawa N, Nakamichi M, Sugiura H (eds) , pp. 323-344
are ubiquitous in nature, their impacts ranging from benign to
pathological, and can significantly drive host population dynamics. In
response, vertebrates have evolved both physiological, i.e. the immune
system, and behavioral counter-strategies. Animal self-medication, one
such behavioral counter-strategy, involves the ingestion of plant items
containing antiparasitic plant secondary metabolites (PSMs). I focus here
on the potential tri-trophic interaction between diet and parasitic
infection in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) in order to create
a link between parasitic challenge and the ingestion of antiparasitic PSMs,
establishing such interactions within the context of feeding ecology.
Using a meta-analytical approach, I compiled food lists for 10 populations
of Japanese macaques (1,664 plant part items) to determine the proportion
of items ingested which in the ethnomedicinal and scientific literature
are shown to contain antiparasitic properties. Previous work has shown
that the diversity of nematode parasites infecting Japanese macaques, i.e.
species richness, increases with decreasing latitude, suggesting
variations in relative parasitic challenge across populations. I compared
the proportion of antiparasitic plant items in the diets of 9 of the 10
populations with their respective nematode species richness (range 0-5). A
generalized linear model showed an increase in the proportion of
antiparasitic items consumed with nematode species richness. There was no
effect of latitude in the model. No relationship existed between these
predictor variables and the proportion of other potentially medicinal
plant items unrelated to parasitic activity. My results thus suggest a
link between parasitic stress and the feeding behavior of Japanese macaque
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