C4 Intrinsic and extrinsic determinants of helminth parasite infection in female spotted hyenas (Hofer/East)

Research Group: Department Evolutionary Ecology
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)
Address: Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17, 10315 Berlin
Supervisors: Professor Heribert HoferDr. Marion East
Doctoral Researcher: Susana Ferreira

Project Description

This project will examine intrinsic and extrinsic factors determining helminth infection intensity and its impact on female fitness in the spotted hyena. Previous research revealed that both lactation and co-infection with Cystoisospora increased the shedding of hookworm eggs. Key hypotheses are that infection intensity and host fitness will depend on lactation, age, social status, allostatic load, co-infections and host immune genotype, and that host fitness declines as infection intensity increases. In order to investigate how this range of factors modulate infection intensity and female fitness, the study will use extensive, long-term data, spanning almost three decades of research on three hyena clans in the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania. The project will employ detailed demographic, life-history, social and genotype data from approximately 200 individually known females and obtain and analyse existing consecutive samples from these individuals for parasitological, physiological and immunological analyses. These include coproscopical, haematological and genetic analyses and the determination of faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations. A task of the study is to develop non-invasive protocols for assessing immune status for free-ranging animals.

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