Consequences of haemogregarine infection on the escape distance in the lacertid lizard, Podarcis vaucheri
Nowadays it is widely accepted that parasites play a significant role in the community structures in which they occur, and ultimately upon ecosystems. Furthermore, infection by parasites might be associated with considerable deterioration of individual host fitness. While the apicomplexan parasites belonging to the genus Hepatozoon can provoke severe deleterious effects in some mammals, impact on other hosts, such as reptiles, is still unclear. We assessed the effect of Hepatozoon parasites on Podarcis vaucheri flight-initiation distance from a simulated predator, a behaviour that is determinant for a successful escape and is therefore likely to have major implications on a lizard’s survival. We found that flight-initiation distance was not dependent on the time of the day or tail condition. Subadults exhibited worse body condition than adults and females had worse body condition than males. Regarding intensity of parasitism, subadults showed higher parasitemia levels. Escape distance was not associated with parasitic load or any of the other studied features, which is indicative of limited impact of the parasite. This negligible effect might explain the remarkably high prevalence (more than 96%) of this parasitic group within this P. vaucheri population.
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