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Metazoan-protozoan parasite co-infections and host body weight in St Kilda Soay sheep

  • B. H. CRAIG (a1), L. J. TEMPEST (a1), J. G. PILKINGTON (a1) and J. M. PEMBERTON (a1)


For hundreds of years, the unmanaged Soay sheep population on St Kilda has survived despite enduring presumably deleterious co-infections of helminth, protozoan and arthropod parasites and intermittent periods of starvation. Important parasite taxa in young Soay sheep are strongyles (Trichostrongylus axei, Trichostrongylus vitrinus and Teladorsagia circumcincta), coccidia (11 Eimeria species) and keds (Melophagus ovinus) and in older animals, Teladorsagia circumcincta. In this research, associations between the intensity of different parasite taxa were investigated. Secondly, the intensities of different parasite taxa were tested for associations with variation in host weight, which is itself a determinant of over-winter survival in the host population. In lambs, the intensity of strongyle eggs was positively correlated with that of Nematodirus spp. eggs, while in yearlings and adults strongyle eggs and coccidia oocysts were positively correlated. In lambs and yearlings, of the parasite taxa tested, only strongyle eggs were significantly and negatively associated with host weight. However, in adult hosts, strongyles and coccidia were independently and negatively associated with host weight. These results are consistent with the idea that strongyles and coccidia are exerting independent selection on Soay sheep.


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*Corresponding author: Wildlife, Ecology and Management Group H, Veterinary Surveillance, Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1904 462583. Fax: +44 (0) 1904 462111. E-mail:


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Metazoan-protozoan parasite co-infections and host body weight in St Kilda Soay sheep

  • B. H. CRAIG (a1), L. J. TEMPEST (a1), J. G. PILKINGTON (a1) and J. M. PEMBERTON (a1)


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