Negative effects of parasites on their hosts are well documented, but the proximate mechanisms by which parasites reduce their hostâ€™s fitness are poorly understood. For example, it has been suggested that parasites might be energetically demanding. However, a recent meta-analysis suggests that they have statistically insignificant effects on host resting metabolic rate (RMR). It is possible, though, that energetic costs associated with parasites are only manifested during and/or following periods of activity. Here, we measured CO2 production (a surrogate for metabolism) in Mediterranean geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) infected with a lung parasite, the pentastome Raillietiella indica, under two physiological conditions: rested and recently active. In rested geckos, there was a negative, but non-significant association between the number of pentastomes (i.e., infection intensity) and CO2 production. In recently active geckos (chased for 3 minutes), we recorded CO2 production from its maximum value until it declined to a stationary phase.We analyzed this decline as a 3 phase function (initial decline, secondary decline, stationary). Geckos that were recently active showed, in the secondary phase, a significant decrease in CO2 production as pentastome intensity increased. Moreover, duration of the secondary phase showed a significant positive association with the number of pentastomes. These results suggest that the intensity of pentastome load exerts a weak effect on the metabolism of resting geckos, but a strong physiological effect on geckos that have recently been active; we speculate this occurs via mechanical constraints on breathing. Our results provide a potential mechanism by which pentastomes can reduce gecko fitness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)