The Effect of Parasitism on the Population Dynamics of the White-footed Mouse (peromyscus leucopus)

Open Access
Spore, Kelly Richelle
Area of Honors:
Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Peter John Hudson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Lester C Griel Jr., Honors Advisor
  • mouse
  • parasite
  • population
  • ecology
  • cycle
  • rodent
Population cycles have been recorded for a number of animal species and can have major impacts on society, accounting for numerous disease outbreaks and considerable losses in agricultural crops. However, there still exists a lack of clear evidence in the scientific community regarding the mechanisms driving these population cycles. Previous studies have demonstrated that endoparasites may have the ability to regulate the growth of host populations, although few empirical studies have tested this claim. We examined the impact of parasitism by helminthes on the population dynamics of the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), a species with unstable population dynamics, and found that administration of anthelmintic significantly increased the average proportion of individuals in breeding condition and the average proportion of females pregnant. Additionally, administration of the anthelmintic significantly increased the average mass, average body length and average growth rate of male P. leucopus. However, the anthelmintic did not influence the survival or the population estimates of P. leucopus. The white-footed mouse served as a model organism, but the results may be applicable to other species that exhibit population cycles as well.