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Eurasian Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus are infested with a wide range of gut parasites, but experimental evidence of their effects on host fitness is scant. We investigated prevalence of parasites, and experimentally tested the effects of gut parasites on chick survival and growth. One hundred and fifty-nine hatchlings from 66 nests were treated with a single dose anthelminthic medicine (0.5 mL Spectril + 0.0025 mL Ivomec) and compared with a sham-treated control group of 163 hatchlings from 66 nests. Unexpectedly, chicks treated with the anthelminthic drug survived less well than control chicks. Fledglings from the treated group were significantly less infected with gut parasites than untreated fledglings, although they were of similar body mass. One possible explanation for these findings is that the treatment interferes with the development of the immune system in the hatchlings. This might have caused mass mortality of treated hatchlings after the drug ceased to work and the treated chicks became susceptible to infections for the first time. Furthermore, all chicks and adults from both saltmarsh and adjacent freshwater habitat appeared free from blood parasites. Thus, in the Eurasian Oystercatcher, we found no support for the hypothesis, based on between-species comparisons, that the presence of blood parasites is related to the saltiness of the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-517
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ID: 154895