Can animals use foraging behaviour to combat parasites?

Hutchings, Michael R., Athanasiadou, Spiridoula, Kyriazakis, Ilias, and Gordon, Iain J. (2003) Can animals use foraging behaviour to combat parasites? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62 (2). pp. 361-370.

[img] PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website:


Host-parasite interactions are often seen as an arms race, with parasites attempting to overcome host resistance to infection. Herbivory is a common route of transmission of parasites that represents the most pervasive challenge to mammalian growth and reproduction. The present paper reviews the foraging skills of mammalian herbivores in relation to their ability to exploit plant properties to combat parasites. The starting point is that foraging behaviour may ameliorate the impact of parasitism in three ways; hosts could: (1) avoid foraging in areas contaminated with parasites; (2) select diets which increase their resistance to parasites; (3) select for foods containing anti-parasitic properties (self-medication). Details are given of the pre-requisite skills needed by herbivores if they are to combat parasitism via behaviour, i.e. herbivores are able to: (a) determine their parasitic state and alter their behaviour in relation to that state (behaviours 1, 2 and 3); (b) determine the environmental distribution of parasites (behaviour 1); (c) distinguish plant species or plant parts that increase their resistance to parasites (behaviour 2) or have anti-parasitic properties (behaviour 3). Mammalian herbivores cannot detect the presence of the parasites themselves and must rely on cues such as faeces. Despite the use of these cues contacting parasites may be inevitable and so mechanisms to combat parasitism are necessary. Mammalian herbivores have the foraging skills needed to exploit the heterogeneous distributions of nutrients and parasites in complex foraging environments in order to avoid, and increase their resistance to, parasites. Current evidence for the use of plant secondary metabolites (PSM) by herbivores for self-medication purposes remains equivocal. PSM have both positive (anti-parasitic) and negative (toxic) effects on herbivores. Here details are given of an experimental approach using tri-trophic (plant-herbivore-parasite) interactions that could be used to demonstrate self-medication in animals. There is strong evidence suggesting that herbivore hosts have developed the foraging skills needed to take advantage of plant properties to combat parasites and thus use behaviour as a weapon in the host-parasite arms race.

Item ID: 42575
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1475-2719
Keywords: acquired immunity, grazing behaviour, parasite control, parasite distribution, self-medication
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council (UK) (NERC), Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), SEERAD Senior Research Fellowship
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2016 07:43
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0702 Animal Production > 070205 Animal Protection (Pests and Pathogens) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830399 Livestock Raising not elsewhere classified @ 50%
83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8304 Pasture, Browse and Fodder Crops > 830499 Pasture, Browse and Fodder Crops not elsewhere classified @ 50%
Downloads: Total: 1
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page