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Diurnal variation in egg excretion by Heterakis gallinarum

  • Gürbüz Daş (a1), Pål O. Westermark (a2) and Matthias Gauly (a3)


Periodicity in nematode egg excretion may be of evolutionary origin as it can favour dispersal of the eggs in the environment. We investigated whether egg excretion by Heterakis gallinarum shows a repeatable pattern of periodicity. The faecal egg concentration and total number of eggs excreted within 4-h intervals were significantly affected by the sampling time within 1 day, but remained unaffected by the sampling day or interaction effects. By contrast, the total number of eggs excreted within 24 h did not differ among the 4 days of the study, collectively indicating repeatable egg excretion patterns. Both host feces and parasite egg excretion increased from night to late afternoon, followed by a decrease in the evening, resulting in higher egg excretion during daytime than the dark period. Feces excretion and worm fecundity showed overlapping diurnal rhythms with similarly timed phases, suggesting the existence of synchronicity between the host feces and nematode egg excretion patterns. We conclude that egg excretion by H. gallinarum is synchronized with host feces excretion and is higher during the daytime than during the dark period. This overlaps with the maximum activity of the day-active host and allows a maximal dispersal of the eggs in the environment.


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Author for correspondence: Gürbüz Daş, E-mail:


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