Stress level, parasite load, and movement pattern in a small-mammal reservoir host for Lyme disease

Canadian Journal of Zoology, e-First Articles. Occurrence of Lyme disease has increased rapidly in Canada in the past 5 years. The emergence of Lyme disease coincides with the range expansion of the primary host, the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus (Rafinesque, 1818)), in the region. We evaluated the effects of stress level, parasite load, and forest-patch characteristics on P. leucopus movement pattern. We found negative relations between on the one hand the adrenal gland size, a proxy for stress level, and population density, and on the other hand, home-range area and movement rate of mouse individuals, suggesting that stressed mice cannot maintain a large home range. Population density was also related with excursion (outside the forest patch) and exploration (outside the home range) rates, either directly or through its effect on home-range area and movement rate. Finally, movement rate and excursion rate were lower in individuals infested with more black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis Say, 1821). Our results have implication for the mechanism of Lyme disease emergence in the region: individual hosts that carry more ticks and are thus more likely to be spreading the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease are dispersing less than tick-free individuals. Monitoring of Lyme disease should thus consider how the characteristics of host communities modulate the spread of the disease across the landscape.
Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology - Category: Zoology Authors: Source Type: research

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