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Energy expenditure for egg production in arthropod ectoparasites: the effect of host species



We studied the energy cost of egg production in two flea species (Parapulex chephrenis and Xenopsylla ramesis) feeding on principal (Acomys cahirinus and Meriones crassus, respectively) and auxiliary (M. crassus and A. cahirinus, respectively) rodent hosts. We predicted that fleas feeding on principal as compared with auxiliary hosts will (a) expend less energy for egg production; (b) produce larger eggs and (c) live longer after oviposition. Both fleas produced more eggs and spent less energy per egg when exploiting principal hosts. Parapulex chephrenis produced larger eggs after exploiting auxiliary hosts, while the opposite was true for X. ramesis. After oviposition, P. chephrenis fed on the auxiliary hosts survived for a shorter time than those fed on the principal hosts, while in X. ramesis the survival time did not differ among hosts. Our results suggested that one of the proximate causes for lower reproductive performance and subsequent lower abundance of fleas on auxiliary hosts is the higher energy cost of egg production. However, in some species, lower offspring number may be compensated to some extent by their size, although this compensation may also compromise their future reproduction via decreased survival. In addition, the reproductive strategy of exploitation of low profitable (i.e. auxiliary) hosts may differ between flea species.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede-Boqer Campus, 84990 Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel. E-mail:


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