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Experimental assessment of the effects of gastrointestinal parasites on offspring quality in chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica)

  • M. J. PALACIOS (a1), F. VALERA (a1) and A. BARBOSA (a1) (a2)


Parasites reduce host fitness and consequently impose strong selection pressures on their hosts. It has been hypothesized that parasites are scarcer and their overall effect on hosts is weaker at higher latitudes. Although Antarctic birds have relatively low numbers of parasites, their effect on host fitness has rarely been investigated. The effect of helminth parasitism on growth rate was experimentally studied in chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) nestlings. In a total of 22 two-nestling broods, 1 nestling was treated with anthelminthics (for cestodes and nematodes) while its sibling was left as a control. Increased growth rate was predicted in de-wormed nestlings compared to their siblings. As expected, 15 days after treatment, the experimental nestlings had increased body mass more than their siblings. These results show a non-negligible negative effect of helminth parasites on nestling body condition that would presumably affect future survival and thus fitness, and it has been suggested there is a strong relationship between body mass and mortality in chinstrap penguins.


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*Corresponding author: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, C/José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2. 28006 Madrid, Spain. Tel: +34 914111328. Fax: +34 915645078. E-mail:


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Experimental assessment of the effects of gastrointestinal parasites on offspring quality in chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica)

  • M. J. PALACIOS (a1), F. VALERA (a1) and A. BARBOSA (a1) (a2)


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