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Parasite-specific variation and the extent of male-biased parasitism; an example with a South African rodent and ectoparasitic arthropods



We asked whether the occurrence and the extent of host gender-biased parasitism vary among higher parasite taxa, among individual species within these taxa and within parasite species among localities. To answer this question, we studied prevalence, abundance, species richness and the level of aggregation of ectoparasites (ticks, mites, lice and fleas) collected from male and female striped mice (Rhabdomys pumilio) in 9 localities of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. We used meta-analyses to compare parasitological variables between male and female hosts across localities for individual parasite species and higher taxa as well as across parasite species within a higher taxon. Whenever gender-biased parasitism was found, it indicated higher infestation of male than female hosts (except 1 low abundant mite species). We found that the occurrence and extent of gender-biased infestation varied mainly within a parasite species among localities and among parasite species within a higher taxon but not among parasite taxa. Our results suggest that the extent of a gender-biased pattern of parasite infestation of the same host may not only involve host-related mechanisms but also depends on biological features of a particular parasite species.


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*Corresponding author: Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Private Bag X1, Stellenbosch University 7602, South Africa. Tel: +27 21 808 4777. Fax: +27 21 808 3304. E-mail:


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Parasite-specific variation and the extent of male-biased parasitism; an example with a South African rodent and ectoparasitic arthropods



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