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Disruption of a host-parasite system following the introduction of an exotic host species

  • S. TELFER (a1) (a2), K. J. BOWN (a2), R. SEKULES (a2), M. BEGON (a1), T. HAYDEN (a3) and R. BIRTLES (a2)...

The potential of biological invasions to threaten native ecosystems is well recognized. Here we describe how an introduced species impacts on native host-parasite dynamics by acting as an alternative host. By sampling sites across an invasion front in Ireland, we quantified the influence of the introduced bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) on the epidemiology of infections caused by flea-transmitted haemoparasites of the genus Bartonella in native wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). Bartonella infections were detected on either side of the front but occurred exclusively in wood mice, despite being highly prevalent in both rodent species elsewhere in Europe. Bank vole introduction has, however, affected the wood mouse-Bartonella interaction, with the infection prevalence of both Bartonella birtlesii and Bartonella taylorii declining significantly with increasing bank vole density. Whilst flea prevalence in wood mice increases with wood mouse density in areas without bank voles, no such relationship is detected in invaded areas. The results are consistent with the dilution effect hypothesis. This predicts that for vector-transmitted parasites, the presence of less competent host species may reduce infection prevalence in the principal host. In addition we found a negative relationship between B. birtlesii and B. taylorii prevalences, indicating that these two microparasites may compete within hosts.

Corresponding author
Department of Veterinary Pathology, The University of Liverpool, Leahurst, Neston CH64 7TE. Tel: +0151 794 6017. Fax: +0151 794 6005. E-mail:
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