Love thy neighbour? Social nesting pattern, host mass and nest size affect ectoparasite intensity in Darwin's tree finches

Sonia Kleindorfer, Rachael Y. Dudaniec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Social nesting behaviour is commonly associated with high prevalence and intensity of parasites in intraspecific comparisons. Little is known about the effects of interspecific host breeding density for parasite intensity in generalist host-parasite systems. Darwin's small tree finch (Camarhynchus parvulus) on Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos Islands, nests in both heterospecific aggregations and at solitary sites. All Darwin finch species on Santa Cruz Island are infested with larvae of the invasive blood-sucking fly Philornis downsi. In this study, we test the prediction that total P. downsi intensity (the number of parasites per nest) is higher for nests in heterospecific aggregations than at solitary nests. We also examine variation in P. downsi intensity in relation to three predictor variables: (1) nest size, (2) nest bottom thickness and (3) host adult body mass, both within and across finch species. The results show that (1) total P. downsi intensity was significantly higher for small tree finch nests with many close neighbours; (2) finches with increased adult body mass built larger nests (inter- and intraspecific comparison); (3) parasite intensity increased significantly with nest size across species and in the small tree finch alone; and (4) nest bottom thickness did not vary with nest size or parasite intensity. These results provide evidence for an interaction between social nesting behaviour, nest characteristics and host mass that influences the distribution and potential impact of mobile ectoparasites in birds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-739
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume63
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

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