Seasonality, cohort-dependence and the development of immunity in a natural host-nematode system

Stephen J. Cornell, Ottar N. Bjornstad, Isabella M. Cattadori, Brian Boag, Peter J. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Acquired immunity is known to be a key modulator of the dynamics of many helminth parasites in domestic and human host populations, but its relative importance in natural populations is more controversial. A detailed long-term dataset on the gastrointestinal nematode Trichostrongylus retortaeformis in a wild population of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) shows clear evidence of seasonal acquired immunity in the age-structured infection profiles. By fitting a hierarchy of demographic infection-immunity models to the observed age-structured infection patterns, we are able to quantify the importance of different components (seasonality, immunity and host age structure) of the parasite dynamics. We find strong evidence that the hosts' immunocompetence waxes and wanes with the seasons, but also contains a lifelong cohort factor, possibly acting through a maternal effect dependent on the host's month of birth. These observations have important and broad implications for the ecology of parasite infection in seasonal natural herbivore systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-518
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1634
StatePublished - Mar 7 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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