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Effects of parasitism on antipredatory responses and defensive behaviors in the subterranean rodent Ctenomys talarum

Publication: Canadian Journal of Zoology
23 November 2021


Predation represents an important evolutionary force shaping specific adaptations. Prey organisms present behavioral adaptations that allow them to recognize, avoid, and defend themselves from their predators. In addition to predation, there is a growing consensus about the role of parasitism in the structuring of biological communities. In vertebrates, the effects on hosts include changes in daily activity, feeding, mate selection, reproduction, and modifications in responses to environmental stimuli. These behavioral variations can benefit the parasite (parasitic manipulation), benefit the host, or appear as a side effect of the infection. We evaluated the influence of parasitism on the behavioral and physiological responses of the tuco-tucos of the Talas (Ctenomys talarum Thomas, 1898) to predator cues. We found that individuals exposed to cat odors and immobilization entered less often and spent less time in the transparent arms of elevated maze, exhibiting a preference for protected areas (anxiogenic response). Additionally, we evaluated if the presence of parasites affected antipredatory behaviors in C. talarum (naturally parasitized, deparasitized, or inoculated with Eimeria sp.). We did not find differences among the groups with regards to responses to predator cues. Therefore, while exposure to predator cues triggered a stress response, the manipulation of parasite loads did not modify homeostasis under these experimental conditions.


La prédation constitue un important facteur d’évolution modulant différentes adaptations. Les organismes proies présentent des adaptations comportementales qui leur permettent de reconnaître, éviter et se défendre contre leurs prédateurs. Outre la prédation, il existe un consensus croissant concernant le rôle du parasitisme dans la structuration de communautés biologiques. Chez les vertébrés, les effets sur les hôtes comprennent des modifications de l’activité quotidienne, de l’alimentation, de la sélection de compagnons, de la reproduction et des réactions aux stimuli ambiants. Ces variations comportementales peuvent avantager le parasite (manipulation parasitique) ou l’hôte ou représenter un effet secondaire de l’infection. Nous avons évalué l’influence du parasitisme sur la réaction comportementale et physiologique du tuco-tuco des Talas (Ctenomys talarum Thomas, 1898) à des signaux de prédateurs. Nous avons constaté que les spécimens exposés à des odeurs et à l’immobilisation de chats entraient moins souvent et demeuraient moins longtemps dans des embranchements transparents de labyrinthes surélevés, montrant une préférence pour les endroits protégés (réaction anxiogène). Nous avons aussi tenté de déterminer si la présence de parasites avait une incidence sur les comportements antiprédateurs chez C. talarum (naturellement parasités, déparasités ou inoculés avec Eimeria sp.). Nous n’avons relevé aucune différence sur le plan des réactions aux signaux de prédateurs entre ces groupes. Donc, si l’exposition à des signaux de prédateurs a déclenché une réaction de stress, la manipulation des charges parasitaires n’a pas modifié l’homéostasie dans ces conditions expérimentales. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Zoology
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume 100Number 2February 2022
Pages: 98 - 105


Received: 12 May 2021
Accepted: 22 October 2021
Accepted manuscript online: 23 November 2021
Version of record online: 23 November 2021


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Key Words

  1. predation risk
  2. parasitism
  3. parasitic manipulation
  4. subterranean rodent
  5. Ctenomys talarum
  6. tuco-tucos of the Talas
  7. antipredatory behaviors


  1. risque de prédation
  2. parasitisme
  3. manipulation parasitique
  4. rongeur souterrain
  5. Ctenomys talarum
  6. tuco-tucos des Talas
  7. comportements antiprédateurs



V. Brachetta [email protected]
Laboratorio de Ecología Fisiológica y del Comportamiento, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata – CONICET, C.C. 1260, Argentina.
C.E. Schleich
Laboratorio de Ecología Fisiológica y del Comportamiento, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata – CONICET, C.C. 1260, Argentina.
R.R. Zenuto
Laboratorio de Ecología Fisiológica y del Comportamiento, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata – CONICET, C.C. 1260, Argentina.

Funding Information

The research was supported by funds from Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 2349) and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (PIP 0292).

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