Research Article

Regulation of mouse colony abundance by Heligmosomoides polygyrus

Marilyn E. Scotta1

a1 Institute of Parasitology, Macdonald College of McGill University, 21 111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne de Bellevue, Quebec H9X ICO, Canada


Despite the ubiquitous presence of parasites, parasitism has not been considered among the list of regulatory factors in animal populations until recently. A detailed long-term study on the impact of the direct life-cycle nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus on a breeding population of laboratory mice provides a clear example of the ability of helminths to regulate host abundance. In the absence of the parasite, the mouse population equilibrated at a density of 320 mice/m2 as a result of density-dependent effects on recruitment. When the parasite was added and transmission was maintained at high levels, infected mouse populations equilibrated at densities of < 18 mice/m2. Reduced rates of parasite transmission and elimination of the parasite from the system both resulted in an increase in mouse density. These results have implications for both ecology and parasitology as they demonstrate a potentially important but often ignored component of host populations that may well influence host abundance and community structure.

(Accepted December 03 1986)