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Why do males and females of Python regius differ in ectoparasite load?

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A recent study of Python regius from Togo (Aubret et al., 2005) has demonstrated that male pythons suffered for a much higher ectoparasite load than the females. The authors hypothesized that these intersexual differences may depend on increased male movements in the mating season relative to females, thus increasing their chances of meeting with ectoparasites. On the other hand, they suggested that differences in habitat use are unlikely to explain this pattern because males and females are found within the same type of burrows. Based on previously published data on food habits of P. regius in Nigeria, as well as on radiotracking data, I showed that males were more arboreal-dwelling than females. I suggest that ectoparasite load differences between sexes depend on a different use of the space, with males being more arboreal than females, and hence collecting ticks from low tree-branches as well as from the ground levels, whereas the same is less true for the females which are infested mainly by the terrestrial ticks.


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