Patterns of parasite aggregation in the wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

B. Boag, J. Lello, A. Fenton, D. M. Tompkins, Peter John Hudson

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64 Scopus citations


Understanding the factors controlling the distribution of parasites within their host population is fundamental to the wider understanding of parasite epidemiology and ecology. To explore changes in parasite aggregation, Taylor's power law was used to examine the distributions of five gut helminths of the wild rabbit. Aggregation was found to be a dynamic process that varied with year, season, host sex, age class, and myxomatosis. Yearly and seasonal changes are thought, in the main, to be the result of variations in weather conditions acting upon infectious stages (or intermediate hosts). Evidence in support of this was the comparatively low degree of fluctuation in the aggregation of the pinworm, Passalurus ambiguus, as the infectious stage of this parasite is likely to be less susceptible to environmental variation. Host age had a marked effect on the level of aggregation of all parasites, but this effect varied between parasite species. P. ambiguus, Trichostrongylus retortaeformis and Cittotaenia denticulata aggregation were lower in adult than juvenile rabbits whilst Graphidium strigosum and Mosgovoyia pectinata aggregation tended to increase with age. Host immunity is thought to be responsible for these differences. Differences in aggregation for different parasites were also seen when the rabbit population was split into males and females. Myxomatosis had a marked effect on helminth distribution with substantially less aggregation in rabbits showing clinical signs of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1421-1428
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Oct 20 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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