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This is how nest conditions influence the abundance of blue tit parasites

Researchers from National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) and the University of Giessen, in Germany, have studied the influence of temperature on the abundance of parasites in the nests from blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), in Germany and Valsaín, Segovia, two locations with opposite environmental conditions.

The microclimatic conditions of the nests influence the type and quantity of parasites that appear

The study, published in the International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, shows that conditions in both areas microclimatic nests influence the type and number of parasites that appear. Their presence eventually affects the offspring and their parents, which is important in predicting the effects of climate change on the incidence of parasitic diseases and the survival of the hosts.

“When trying to predict the effect that climate change will have on the host-parasite relationship, it is important to take into account small-scale temperature changes,” he says. Francisco Castaño-Vazquez, MNCN researcher.

“For this reason, in our work we ask ourselves how the increase in temperature within the nest affects the abundance of parasites. We chose the blue tit as a study subject because it is a model species ”, he explains.

An experiment with these birds

To answer this question, during the breeding period the researchers artificially increased the temperature of the birds’ nest boxes, consequently reducing the humidity, in these two locations in Germany and Spain, the latter with warmer and drier environmental conditions.

While in Germany the so-called chicken flea appears more frequent, in Spain mosquitoes of the genus Culicoides and blood parasites were more frequent

Santiago Merino

“As we expected, we observed that the type of organisms that parasitize the nests are different in both places. For example, while in Germany the call appears more frequently chicken flea (Ceratophyllus gallinae), in Spain the mosquitoes of the genus Culicoides and the parasites blood, ”he explains Santiago Merino, also a researcher at the MNCN and its current director.

“On the other hand, although the presence of larvae of some ectoparasites was lower in the nests in which we increased the temperature artificially, it was observed that the male blue tit that had visited the nests with higher temperature in Germany, and the nests without manipulation in Spain, had a higher burden of blood parasites. Furthermore, we found that the males and the offspring with more parasites had, respectively, lower body weight and wing length ”, points out Castaño-Vázquez.

“Therefore, given that parasitic diseases affect the physical state of these animals and, eventually, their survival, it is essential to continue researching in this line to predict the effects of global warming on parasitism”, concludes the researcher.

Rights: Creative Commons.

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