Personality and ectoparasite burdens in eastern rock sengis (Elephantulus myurus) (#185)
Consistent inter-individual differences in behaviours or personality are being investigated in an increasing number of animal species due to their potential fitness implications. Personality traits such as exploratory behaviour may affect space use in wild populations. More proactive animals are often assumed to roam further and thus increase their encounter rates with food sources and in turn their body condition. At the same time, roaming over a larger area can increase an individual’s exposure to parasites ultimately decrease fitness. We evaluated the effects of personality on body condition, ranging behaviour as well as ectoparasite burden in wild eastern rock sengis (Elephantulus myurus) from Limpopo Province, South Africa between March 2012 and April 2013. A total of 125 individuals were assessed for their exploratory, aggressive response and boldness between one and five times. The animals exhibited a behavioural syndrome with behaviours being highly correlated and repeatable over time. The ectoparasite community sustained by sengis was dominated by two tick (Rhipicephalus warburtoni and Rhipicentor nuttalli), one chigger mite and one louse species. Contrary to the prediction proactive individuals (more exploratory, aggressive and bold) maintained a poorer body condition than reactive ones. Personality did neither affect the number of traps an individual entered nor did more frequently caught individuals carry higher ectoparasite burdens. Of the four ectoparasite species only Rc. nuttalli was affected by personality. Unlike predicted, Rc. nuttalli burden was greater in reactive compared to proactive individuals. This may be linked to this tick pursuing a sit-and-wait strategy under rocks and in crevices to avoid desiccation where it is more likely to encounter reactive hosts.