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Parasites and invasions: changes in gastrointestinal helminth assemblages in invasive and native rodents in Senegal.

By Christophe Diagne, Alexis Ribas, Nathalie Charbonnel, Ambroise Dalecky, Caroline Tatard, Philippe Gauthier, Voitto Haukisalmi, Odile Fossati-Gaschignard, Khalilou Bâ, Mamadou Kane, Youssoupha Niang, Mamoudou Diallo, Aliou Sow, Sylvain Piry, Mbacké Sembène, Carine Brouat

Posted 13 May 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/053082 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2016.07.007)

Understanding why some exotic species become widespread and abundant in their colonized range is a fundamental issue that still needs to be addressed. Among many hypotheses, newly established host populations may benefit from a parasite loss ("enemy release" hypothesis) through impoverishment of their original parasite communities or reduced infection levels. Moreover, the fitness of competing native hosts may be affected by the acquisition of exotic taxa from invaders ("parasite spillover") and/or by an increased transmission risk of native parasites due to their amplification by invaders ("parasite spillback"). We focused on gastrointestinal helminth communities to determine whether these predictions could explain the ongoing invasion success of the commensal house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) and black rat (Rattus rattus), as well as the associated drop of native Mastomys species, in Senegal. For both invasive species, our results were consistent with the predictions of the enemy release hypothesis. A decrease of helminth overall prevalence and individual species richness was observed along the invasion gradients as well as lower specific prevalence/abundance (Aspiculuris tetraptera in M. m. domesticus, Hymenolepis diminuta in R. rattus) on the invasion fronts. Conversely, we did not find strong evidence of helminth spill-over or spill-back in invasion fronts, where native and invasive rodents co-occurred. Further experimental research is needed to determine whether and how the loss of helminths and reduced infection levels along invasion routes may result in any advantageous effects on invader fitness and competitive advantage.

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