Fitness consequences and determinants of parasite infections in a wild social carnivore, the spotted hyena

Assessing both infection and the associated immune responses in free-ranging wildlife is challenging, as is the assessment of the consequences of infection on components of Darwinian fitness throughout the life-span of an individual. Our research aims to investigate the effect of the infection load of energetically costly intestinal parasites on host immune function and assess whether they have an effect on components of Darwinian fitness. We will combine results from longitudinal measures of parasite load, faecal hormone concentrations and measures of immunological responses in faeces from individually known spotted hyenas with information on their social rank and components of Darwinian fitness (age of first reproduction, longevity and life-time reproductive reproductive success) in our study population in the Serengeti National Park. This project is funded by the Research Training Group 2046 “Parasite Infections: from experimental models to natural systems”, Freie Universität Berlin”.

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