Abstract

Parasites play a crucial role in the ecology of animals. They also appear to be important in mechanisms underlying sexual selection processes. In this article we study the prevalence, effect and potential role in sexual selection of the protozoon Trypanosoma evansi in capybaras, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. We collected our samples from the annual capybara cull of a ranch in Venezuela, using the volume of the snout scent gland as an indicator of dominance; the residuals of body weight as indicators of condition; and the residuals of the spleen mass as indicators of immune function. Overall prevalence was 30.9% (N=97) with no difference between males and females and no relation between infection with T. evansi and condition. However, we found that infected animals had larger spleens (residuals), indicating an immunological cost of the infection. Further, males with larger snout scent glands (more dominant) were less likely to be infected than males with smaller glands (less dominant) suggesting that by choosing males with a large gland, females may be using the gland as an indicator of health, which is consistent with the “good genes” view of sexual selection.
Keywords: capybara, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, parasites, sexual selection, Trypanosoma evansi