Parasite age-intensity relationships in red-spotted newts: Does immune memory influence salamander disease dynamics?

Thomas R. Raffel, Robert P. LeGros, Brenda C. Love, Jason R. Rohr, Peter J. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Acquired immune memory in vertebrates influences transmission and persistence of infections, with consequences for parasite dynamics at both the individual and population levels. The potential impact of acquired immunity is of particular interest for salamanders, whose acquired immune systems are thought to be less effective than those of frogs and other tetrapods. One way to examine the importance of acquired immunity to parasite dynamics at the population level is by examining the relationship between host age and parasite infection intensity. Acquired immunity reduces infection rates in older animals, causing decreased parasite intensity in older age classes and leading to curvilinear age-intensity relationships for persistent parasites and convex age-intensity relationships for transient parasites. We used age-intensity relationships to look for the signature of acquired immunity for 12 parasite taxa of red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens), using data from a 2-year parasitological survey of six newt populations. We estimated ages from snout-vent length (SVL) based on the relationship between SVL and skeletochronologically-derived ages in a subset of newts. We found evidence of acquired immunity to two parasite taxa, bacterial pathogens and the protist Amphibiocystidium viridescens, whose convex age-intensity relationships could not be easily explained by alternative mechanisms. Our results suggest that the acquired immune response of newts is sufficient to influence the dynamics of at least some parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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