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Host reproductive status and reproductive performance of a parasite: offspring quality and trade-offs in a flea parasitic on a rodent



We investigated offspring quality in fleas (Xenopsylla ramesis) feeding on non-reproducing, pregnant or lactating rodents (Meriones crassus) and asked whether (a) quality of flea offspring differs dependent on host reproductive status; (b) fleas trade off offspring quantity for quality; and (c) quality variables are inter-correlated. Emergence success was highest when parents exploited pregnant hosts, while development time was longest when parents exploited lactating hosts. Male offspring from fleas fed on non-reproductive and pregnant hosts were larger than those from lactating hosts whereas female offspring from fleas fed on pregnant hosts were larger than those from both lactating and non-reproductive hosts. Male offspring survived under starvation the longest when their parents exploited lactating hosts and the shortest when their parents exploited pregnant hosts. Female offspring of parents that exploited lactating hosts survived under starvation longer than those that exploited non-reproductive and pregnant hosts. Emergence success and development time decreased as mean number of eggs laid by mothers increased. Fleas that were larger and took longer to develop lived significantly longer under starvation. These results indicate the presence of a trade-off between offspring quantity and quality in fleas exploiting female Sundevall's jird in varying reproductive condition but this trade-off depended on the quality trait considered.


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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