High infection intensities, but negligible fitness costs, suggest tolerance of gastrointestinal nematodes in a tropical snake

Martin Mayer*, Gregory P. Brown, Barbara Zimmermann, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigated patterns of prevalence and intensity of gastrointestinal nematode infections in a tropical natricine snake, the keelback (Tropidonophis mairii). Ninety-eight percent of keelbacks were infected with Tanqua anomala (Gnathostomidae), with infection intensities of up to 243 worms per snake. Infection with T.anomala caused severe inflammation of stomach mucosa and submucosa at the sites of parasite attachment and encystment. Nonetheless, we did not detect detrimental effects of nematode infection on measures of fitness among wild or captive snakes. Snakes with heavier nematode infections had higher body condition scores than less-infected individuals. Deworming captive snakes had no measurable effect on their growth rate, body condition or locomotor performance. In combination with an earlier study on blood-dwelling hepatozoons, our work suggests that keelbacks have a high tolerance to parasites. The 'fast-pace' life history and short lifespan of these snakes may make it beneficial for them to tolerate infection, rather than expend energy on resisting parasite attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-692
Number of pages10
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume40
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Australia
  • faecal flotation
  • inflammation
  • life history
  • resistance
  • tolerance

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