Associations between body composition and helminths of lesser snow geese during winter and spring migration.
International journal for parasitology | 20 Jun 2012
D Shutler, RT Alisauskas and J Daniel McLaughlin
Costs of parasitism are predicted to be higher with greater parasite intensities and higher inter-parasite competition (diversity). We tested whether greater helminth intensities and diversity were associated with poorer body composition (whole-body fat, protein, mineral and true body mass) in lesser snow geese, Chen caerulescens caerulescens. As part of a larger study on nutritional ecology, 828 wintering or migrating geese were shot between January and May 1983 in 27 different date-locations (samples) during their northward migration through mid-continental North America. A large proportion of overall variation in body composition and parasite communities was among samples, so we analyzed data within each of the 27 samples, controlling for structural body size (the first principal component of 10 body size measurements), sex and the age of geese. There was no compelling evidence that cestodes, trematodes or helminth diversity were associated with variation in body composition but nematodes had several negative associations with fat reserves. However, negative associations between fat reserves and nematodes occurred most often in geese collected between March and May when nematode prevalences and intensities were relatively low. This suggests several possibilities: that the most common nematodes (Heterakis dispar and Trichostrongylus tenuis) were more virulent at this time, that infected individuals had been chronically infected and suffered cumulative nutrient deficits that lasted until late in the spring migration, or that geese became more vulnerable to the effects of parasites at this time of year, possibly because they redirected resources away from immunity toward fat storage in preparation for reproduction.
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