New publication: Parasite load and seasonal migration in red deer
Atle Mysterud, Lars Qviller, Erling L. Meisingset and Hildegunn Viljugrein in Oecologia
Northern deer populations are typically partially migratory, but the relationship between migratory movements and parasites has received little attention. Migration often involves movement from a low-elevation winter range towards a summer range at higher elevation. In Europe these movements may also involve a gradient in abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks, but whether tick loads on deer differ depending on migration tactic has not been quantified. Based on the examination of ears from 49 red deer (Cervus elaphus) marked with global positioning system collars, we provide the first evidence that the tick loads of deer covering longer distances between their winter and summer range, resulting in higher difference in elevation, are lower. Our study highlights that only the resident part of the red deer population will be available as year-round hosts to ticks, while a large part of the red deer population is unavailable to ticks for most of the tick questing season due to seasonal migration to higher elevation. Predicted changes in the migratory behaviour of ungulates could hence affect the proportion of the host population available to ticks in the future.