Parasitism underground: determinants of helminth infections in two species of subterranean rodents (Octodontidae).
Patterns of infection among hosts in a population are often driven by intrinsic host features such as age or sex, as well as by positive or negative interactions between parasite species. We investigated helminth parasitism in 2 South American rodent species, Ctenomys australis and C. talarum (Octodontidae), to determine whether the unusual solitary and subterranean nature of these hosts would impact their patterns of infection. We applied generalized linear models to infection data on a total of 7 helminth species (1 in C. australis and 6 in C. talarum). Host age and season of capture influenced infection levels in some of the helminth species, but none were influenced by host body condition. In C. talarum, 4 pairs of helminth species showed significant associations, either asymmetrical or symmetrical, and with 3 of the 4 being positive; strong inter-specific facilitation appears likely in 1 case. Also, we found that female hosts, especially non-pregnant ones, harboured heavier infections of 2 nematode species than male hosts. This is in sharp contrast to the general male-bias reported for most studies of nematodes in wild mammals, and we develop explanations for these results based on the unusual ecology of these subterranean rodents.DOI: 10.1017/S0031182010000351