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Parasites Prevent Summer Breeding in White-Footed Mice, Peromyscus Leucopus

Kurt J. Vandegrift, Thomas R. Raffel and Peter J. Hudson
Ecology
Vol. 89, No. 8 (Aug., 2008), pp. 2251-2258
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27650750
Page Count: 8
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Parasites Prevent Summer Breeding in White-Footed Mice, Peromyscus Leucopus
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Abstract

Food and parasites can independently play a role in destabilizing population fluctuations of animals, and yet, more than 50 years ago, David Lack proposed that these two factors should act in concert. We examined the role of these factors on the vital rates of freeliving white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) over the summer and autumn months. We used a replicated factorial experiment in which deer exclosures doubled acorn availability and anthelmintic application reduced gastrointestinal helminths. Specifically, we wanted to known if either factor or an interaction between the two accounted for the midsummer breeding hiatus observed in this species. We found no influence of habitat quality on mouse breeding, vital rates, or demography; however, anthelmintic treatment resulted in mice continuing to reproduce during the hiatus at the same rate as previously, and they also exhibited increased body condition, growth rate, and survival. These results provide evidence that gastrointestinal helminths reduce P. leucopus reproductive output in central Pennsylvania, and these effects on reproduction could play a role in the unstable dynamics of small mammals.

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