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Fitness costs of parasites explain multiple life history tradeoffs in a wild mammal


Albery, Gregory et al. (2020), Fitness costs of parasites explain multiple life history tradeoffs in a wild mammal, Dryad, Dataset,


Reproduction in wild animals can divert limited resources away from immune defence, resulting in increased parasite burdens. A longstanding prediction of life history theory states that these parasites can harm the individual, reducing the organism’s subsequent fitness and producing reproduction-fitness tradeoffs. Here, we examined associations among reproductive allocation, immunity, parasitism, and subsequent fitness in a wild population of individually identified red deer ( Cervus elaphus ). Using path analysis, we investigated whether costs of lactation for downstream survival and fecundity were mediated by changes in strongyle nematode count and mucosal antibody levels. Lactating females exhibited increased parasite counts, which were in turn associated with substantially decreased fitness in the following year in terms of overwinter survival, fecundity, subsequent calf weight, and parturition date. This study offers observational evidence for parasite regulation of multiple life history tradeoffs, supporting the role of parasites as an important mediating factor in wild mammal populations.


Noninvasive faecal collection from the Isle of Rum red deer

Usage Notes

The anonymised data files are present in the `DataList.rds` object; the scripts will run the path analysis and generate the figures, using these datasets.


Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/L00688X/1

Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/L002558/1