The processes influencing the distribution of parasitic nematodes among naturally infected lambs
Bishop, S. C.
The impact of mixed, nematode infection upon a group of animals will depend upon the number of nematodes present, how they are distributed among hosts and whether individuals that are heavily parasitized with one species are more likely to be heavily parasitized with other species. A survey of over 500 six-month-old, Scottish Blackface lambs from a single farm in Southwest Strathclyde identified 7 different categories of nematodes in the abomasum and small intestine. There were considerable differences among years and among nematodes in the prevalence and mean intensity of infection. Ostertagia circumcincta was present in nearly all lambs and judged by prevalence and intensity is one of the most successful of all parasitic nematodes. Each category of nematodes had a skewed distribution; most animals had relatively few worms but a small proportion had many worms. The variances of the number of nematodes in each category were approximately equal to the square of the mean. The counts of adult O. circumcincta followed a negative binomial distribution, but the negative binomial distribution did not provide a good description of the observed values for the other species. These other species had a lower prevalence and possibly some sheep were not exposed to infection. There was no significant genetic variation among lambs in the number of nematodes present and therefore the differences among these lambs were unlikely to be a consequence of genetic differences in host susceptibility. Lambs with increased numbers of one species were more likely to be have increased numbers of the other species, but the correlations were weak and may reflect covariation in exposure to different parasites.