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Reproductive consequences of host age in a desert flea



We tested for the effect of age of a rodent host (Meriones crassus) on reproductive performance of fleas in terms of number and quality of offspring and predicted that fleas would perform better on juvenile and old than on subadult and adult hosts. The number of flea offspring was evaluated via egg and new imago production, while their quality was estimated via duration of development, resistance to starvation and body size. Although fleas produced more eggs when they exploited adults than when they exploited juvenile, subadult and old hosts, significantly more new imago emerged from fleas fed on juvenile and old hosts than on subadult and adult hosts. Fleas performed better when they fed on juvenile and/or old hosts than on subadult and adult hosts in 2 of 3 measures of offspring quality (duration of development and body size). Nevertheless, when offspring quality was estimated via resistance to starvation of a new imago, fleas demonstrated good performance in young (juvenile and subadult) hosts, while they performed poorly in old hosts. Thus, general reproductive performance of fleas was better when they exploited young and old hosts than when they exploited median age cohorts. However, the effect of host age on flea reproductive performance was manifested somewhat differently between (a) male and female hosts and (b) male and female flea offspring.


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. Tel: +972 8 6596841. Fax: +972 8 6596772. E-mail:


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