Chronic parasitic infection alters reproductive output in deer mice

Lisa Schwanz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Parasitized animals may alter their life histories to minimize the costs of parasitism. Organisms are predicted to decrease investment in current reproduction when parasitism has the greatest impact on current reproductive ability. In contrast, if parasitism decreases residual reproductive value, hosts should increase current reproductive investment, referred to as fecundity compensation or terminal investment. In mammalian hosts, parasitic infection most often leads to reductions in current host reproduction, perhaps attributable to the emphasis on parasites that are unlikely to impact the hostâ¿¿s residual reproductive value. In this study, the life history response of a rodent, Peromyscus maniculatus, to infection with a parasite that should strongly impact the residual reproductive value of its host (Schistosomatium douthitti, Trematoda) was examined. Infection decreased survival for hosts exposed to a high dose of parasites and was chronic in survivors, confirming that infection had strong impacts for the residual reproductive value of the host. As predicted, infected mice increased their reproductive output, producing litters of greater mass due to heavier offspring. However, this increased output was observed after a greater delay to begin breeding in infected mice and was not observed in animals that suffered early mortality. The deer mouse S. douthitti system may provide a rare example of fecundity compensation in mammals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1351-1358
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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