Dispersal patterns of organisms are a fundamental aspect of their ecology, modifying the genetic and social structure of local populations(1-4). Parasites reduce the reproductive success and survival of hosts and thereby exert selection pressure on host life-history traits(4-6), possibly affecting host dispersal(7-9). Here we test experimentally whether infestation by hen fleas, Ceratophyllus gallinae, affects sex- related recruitment of great tit, Parus major, fledglings. Using sex-specific DNA markers, we show that flea infestation led to a higher proportion of male fledglings recruiting in the local population in one year. In infested broods, the proportion of male recruits increased with brood size over a three year period, whereas the proportion of male recruits from uninfested broods decreased with brood size. Natal dispersal distances of recruits from infested nests were shorter than those from uninfested nests(10). To our knowledge, this study provides the first evidence for parasite-mediated host natal dispersal and local recruitment in relation to sex. Current theory needs to consider parasites as potentially important factors shaping life-history traits associated with host dispersal. [KEYWORDS: Great-tits; natal dispersal; parus-major; birds; philopatry competition; adaptation; evolution; survival; systems]
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date1999

ID: 157775